To say it’s been a peculiar season for the Portland Rockets is a gross understatement.

It’s been an unusual year for everyone.

But when it comes to Portland’s six-decade-old summer squad, 2020 has been just as strange as everything else has been so far this year.

For one, the team’s two ageless veterans Mitch Waters and Zach Tanner haven’t been in their roles too often this year. Waters, just one of two players on the team actually from Portland, has been battling one injury or another for most of the last three seasons, but this year his name is missing from the lineup more often than not.

As for Tanner, a former professional and the team’s vocal leader in years past, he has also been out of the lineup his fair share of games.

Sometimes, life just gets in the way, and that’s OK.

During Wednesday’s loss to the Summit City Sluggers, the Rockets were short-handed to say the least. At first pitch, only 10 players were in uniform. Another showed up about the fourth inning.

Chandler Jacks, a 2016 Jay County High School graduate, suddenly found himself as the longest-tenured Rocket that night, and he’s only in his fourth year with the squad.

The remaining nine players were all in their first year wearing the black and gold.

The Portland Rockets only have four remaining home games — a 1 p.m. doubleheader Sunday against the Fort Wayne Jackers, a 7 p.m. tilt Tuesday with the Northeast Kekionga and then a 7 p.m. matchup July 22 with the Jackers.

Therefore, there’s only a handful of more chances this season to get to see one of those youngsters who is a can’t-miss player.

Patrick Mills, a 20-year-old graduate of Western in Russiaville, is by far the most exciting kid to witness at Runkle-Miller Field.

The 6-foot, 4-inch, 195-pound lefty gives it his all no matter where he is on the field.

When Geoff Bowers, a former Rocket who returned to the team after a five-year hiatus — there’s the oddity of this team coming into play again — is in the lineup at first base, Mills can be found somewhere in the outfield.

When that’s the case, he is normally found glaring into the sun on weekday evenings while in right field, but he’s also played the other two outfield spots. He fits roaming the outfield. The cannon he has for a left arm gets the ball back to the infield in a hurry, and when this columnist has been in attendance no one has yet tried to test that arm.

But runners, beware.

If Bowers is not in the lineup, Mills is at his most natural position, first base. And Wednesday night it was clear how comfortable he is playing at the corner.

Sometime during the middle innings, Mills was holding a runner on base. When his pitcher delivered toward the plate, he stepped off the bag and assumed his position. The batter ripped a liner toward him and the tower of a kid dived to his right and came up with the stop. He popped up to his feet and fired a seed to second base for the force out.

As skilled as he is on the field, he is most enjoyable to watch when he steps to the plate.

The first pitch he ever saw as a Rocket, back on June 16, hit the ground beyond the trees out in right field. It was a no-doubter.

Since that night, as temperatures across the state and nation have risen to nearly uncomfortable numbers, all Mills has done is heat up right along with them.

He’s on a tear offensively that has been nearly unheard of in recent Rocket memory.

In this pandemic-shortened season, Portland has played 12 games. Mills missed one.

Mills has five home runs, two of which came in the 17-9 loss to Summit City on Wednesday, and a whopping 24 RBIs.

How has he been so successful swinging a wood bat?

“Just go every day like it’s a new day,” he said. “Just have some fun and don’t worry about it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself because when you do you start doing bad things.

“Every day is fresh. Go out and have fun.”

If he’s having fun, it’s hard to tell. The kid rarely smiles. It’s all business when he’s on the diamond.

“He comes as advertised, ready to play,” Portland manager Randy Miller said. “He’s been a joy to watch. He’s always a threat to score; he’s in scoring position in the batter’s box with his five home runs. He makes plays in the field. He gets the accolades from the other team.

“He stays humble and just does his job.”

He does it aggressively, too. Two of his home runs this year have come on the first pitch he’s seen. Blink and you might miss it and be searching for the ball as it glides through the sky.

Miller said it best, though, when describing one of his newest players: “Patrick Mills is a breath of fresh air and a budding talent.”

But there are only a few more chances to watch him continue to bloom this season.

Don’t miss out.