Several Highlanders make their professional debut

Isuru Karunatillaka /HIGHLANDER

Two Highlanders from the baseball team will be moving onto the majors after being drafted into the MLB. Junior pitcher Connor Cannon and senior outfielder Dean Miller were both drafted on the third day of the MLB draft.

Cannon was drafted in the 16th round by the San Francisco Giants with the 506 overall pick. During his tenure at UCR, Cannon set the UCR program record for most home runs in a single season with 18. He also broke the record for most home runs in UCR program history with 36. Cannon finished with 150 hits, 105 RBIs and 82 runs in his three seasons. 

Although the Highlanders didn’t have the record they anticipated during the 2018-19 season finishing with a 20-16 record, Cannon had a strong individual season as he was named to the Big West first team. He was also the first player in UCR history to win Big West Player of the Week, for three straight weeks. 

Miller was selected as the 737th pick for 2018 World Series champion Boston Red Socks in the 24th round. As an outfielder for the Highlanders, Miller recorded 123 putouts (PO) during the 2018-19 season and 84 PO during the 2017-18 season. Due to his success on the field, Miller was named to the Big West first team as with Cannon. 

On the offensive side, Miller recorded 14 home runs in 2019, good for second on the team behind Cannon. Miller had 49 RBIs in 2019, more than doubling his total of 23 in the 2018 season, with a batting percentage of .365. 

Cannon and Miller add to the list of UCR alumni to make their debut at the professional level. 

Former UCR Highlander Michael Salazar recently signed a contract with the Houston Dynamo of the MLS. The Belize native last played for the Montreal Impact as a forward. As a Highlander, Salazar was named to the Big West team in both 2014 and 2015. 

Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly was named the Big West Pitcher of the Year in 2007 as a member of the UCR baseball team. Kelly has played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Socks and Los Angeles Dodgers. The highlight of Kelly’s career was winning the World Series with the Red Socks in 2018. 

Distance runner Brenda Martinez was a three-time All American during her tenure at UCR. In 2009, Martinez was named as the Big West Women’s track athlete of the year, becoming the first Highlander to achieve the honor. One of her notable accomplishments was her third place finish at the women’s 1500m race in the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

While UC Riverside doesn’t have the most prestigious list of names to play for their sports program, there are still a solid number of UCR alumni to have performed on a professional stage in their respective sports. The number of UCR athletes that will have a pro career will only continue to rise in the near future, and athletes like Cannon and Miller will be among those athletes that will have made an impact on the sports program in Riverside.