Onetime Mariners spring-training pitcher, Justin Miller, known as baseball’s “Tattoo Man’’ has been found dead in Florida at age 35.
The cause of death and exactly where it took place has yet to be released, though Miller lived in the Tampa Bay suburb of Palm Harbor with his wife and two children and coached youth baseball there. Miller’s body was found Wednesday, though news of his death didn’t surface until late Friday night.
Miller attended spring training with the Mariners in 2011 and went on to play six games for the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers that season before being released and retiring from baseball a few months later. The left-handed relief pitcher, who appeared in 216 major-league games over seven seasons with the Blue Jays, Marlins, Giants and Dodgers, was longtime friends with former Mariners closer Brandon League.
It was when the pair were rooming together in spring training with Toronto a decade ago that Miller introduced a teenage League to the art of decorating one’s body with tattoos. Current Dodgers relief pitcher League is well-known for his multiple tattoos, but Miller was considered baseball’s all-time leader in that department, with the majority of his body covered with hundreds of designs.m
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“He’s my inspiration,’’ League told the Times in a February 2011 story on the pair.
Major League Baseball in 2004 imposed what is commonly known as “The Justin Miller Rule’’ forcing tattooed pitchers to cover their forearms so as not to distract hitters.
In 2005, former closer Billy Koch tried a spring comeback with the Blue Jays and dared bullpen mate Miller to get a tattoo on his backside that read “I love Billy Koch.’’ The Blue Jays had traded Koch to Oakland for Miller and Eric Hinske more than three years prior.
Miller got the tattoo – with a heart design replacing the word “love’’ — and Koch had to pay him $1,000 and another $500 to Miller’s wife as part of the dare. An Associated Press freelance reporter wanted to verify Miller had gotten the tattoo done and was invited to the parking lot at the team’s Florida spring-training facility.
“We went between two parked cars, I dropped my pants and showed him,” Miller told the Times.
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• To celebrate Turn Back the Clock Day at Safeco Field, the Mariners dressed in the uniforms of the 1909 Seattle Turks, who won a Northwest League championship that year. The Cubs wore early 1900s uniforms.