Two events that would turn out to have enduring significance for business and professional sports titan Larry H. Miller occurred when he was just a 12-year-old boy growing up in Salt Lake City.

He met the girl that would later become his wife and began playing the sport that would become a lifelong passion when Little League baseball launched in his neighborhood.

Just a day after announcing the Miller family and Larry H. Miller Company had assembled a broad-based coalition of stakeholders, identified the site for a stadium and officially launched an effort to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to Salt Lake City, Gail Miller spoke with the Deseret News about how big a deal the game was for her family and her late husband, and how the new effort is, in many ways, completing a journey that began decades ago.

“The game was a big part of our life, our whole life,” Miller said. “He would be very pleased about getting a major league team here today.”

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Larry Miller died from complications of Type 2 diabetes in 2009 at the age of 64. He devoted an entire chapter of his posthumously published autobiography “Driven” to his love of ballparks and the game that he participated in as a Little Leaguer and later as a fast-pitch softball player and, still later, as the longtime sponsor of a team that bore the name of his car dealership empire. Along the way, he would become the owner of the Utah Jazz and, in 2005, bought the Los Angeles Angels’ Triple-A affiliate Salt Lake Stingers, later changing the name to the Salt Lake Bees.

In his book, Larry Miller wrote that the spirit of the game was the perfect antidote for the stresses of his life off the field.

“As a kid, I looked forward to the games so much that a rainout was devastating for me,” Larry Miller wrote. “With the stresses of home life and, later, my career, there was nothing I loved more than to be on the diamond on a weekend night, under the lights, in a highly charged, competitive game.”

Gail Miller walks with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall as they join other leaders and community members for the groundbreaking of the Rocky Mountain Power District property on Wednesday, April 12, 2023. Miller also announced plans to hopefully bring a Major League Baseball team to the area. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Gail Miller said Larry’s love of playing softball took the family to Colorado for eight years where her husband balanced work with weekend and evening games and some very hectic travel schedules. Gail and kids would frequently travel with dad to his games, which ranged all over the west including trips to play in Arizona, California, Canada and Montana.

“We always went to his tournaments,” Gail Miller said. “Our kids were actually raised at the ballpark.”

The proposed site of a potential new Salt Lake City MLB stadium on the west side of the city, just off of North Temple, is not far away from the neighborhoods where Gail and Larry grew up, he on Capitol Hill and her in the Marmalade District. The proximity of a possible new major league stadium so close to where Larry first started playing baseball just brings added meaning to the effort, Gail Miller said.

“It feels like I really have made a full circle and this is absolutely the right place for a major league ballpark,” Gail Miller said. “That particular piece of ground was a godsend.”

Gail Miller said the newly launched effort to bring an MLB franchise to Salt Lake is also reminiscent, at its core, of the energy she and Larry had back in the ’80s when they were scraping together funding and partnerships to buy the Jazz and keep the team in Utah.

“This effort ... really has the same purpose that was behind buying the Jazz, to fulfill our dream of bringing the community together,” Gail Miller said. “I remember after signing the (Jazz purchase) contract, Larry said, ‘Utah, it’s all yours’. And this is still about bringing a team here for the community and all the good things that come with it.”

In his biography, Larry Miller quoted a favorite line from the movie “Field of Dreams” when the character played by Burt Lancaster, Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, reminisces about a missed opportunity to play big league baseball.

“The chance to squint at a sky so blue it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingle that runs up your arms when you connect dead-on. The chance to run the bases, stretch a double into a triple and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag,” Graham tells Kevin Costner’s character in the film. “That’s my wish, Ray Kinsella. That’s my wish.”

In his book, Larry Miller wrote about his deep love of the game he first started playing as a 12-year-old, but it turns out the other event from that year of his life would be even bigger.

“Other than the times I’ve spent with Gail, I will say some of the happiest times in my life were when I was in uniform, competing at the ballpark,” Larry Miller wrote.

A rendering depicts what a new Major League Baseball stadium could look like in the Power District in Salt Lake City.
Renderings released Wednesday, April 12, 2023, depict what a new Major League Baseball stadium could look like in the Power District located on North Temple in Salt Lake City, according to Big League Utah, a group described as a “broad community coalition led by the Miller family. It consists of Utah’s federal, state and local decision-makers, business and community leaders, former MLB baseball players and potential investors. | Big League Utah