Mitch Harris (baseball)

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Mitch Harris
Free agent
Pitcher
Born: (1985-11-07) November 7, 1985 (age 32)
Ocala, Florida
Bats: Right Throws: Right
MLB debut
April 25, 2015, for the St. Louis Cardinals
MLB statistics
(through 2016 season)
Win–loss record 2–1
Earned run average 3.67
Strikeouts 15
Teams
Mitch Harris
Born (1985-11-07) November 7, 1985 (age 32)
Ocala, Florida
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 2008–2013
Rank US Navy O3 infobox.svg Lieutenant

Mitchell Andrew Harris (born November 7, 1985) is an American professional baseball pitcher and former U.S. Navy Lieutenant who is currently a free agent. A native of Florida who grew up in North Carolina, Harris attended the United States Naval Academy. After serving in the Navy, Harris became the first Naval Academy graduate to appear in the major leagues since 1921, and just the second ever to do so. He made his MLB debut on April 25, 2015.

Early life

Mitch Harris was born in Ocala, Florida, the son of Cy and Cindy Harris, and grew up in Mount Holly, North Carolina. He attended South Point High School in Belmont, North Carolina, where he played trombone and lettered in baseball and was all-conference and all-state in 2003 and 2004.[1]

At first, very few scouts watched Harris pitch in high school. Having weighed 175 pounds (79 kg) at one point, he was much less imposing than his weight of 240 pounds (110 kg) on his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut. However, the more he pitched, the more he drew notice. After attracting more scouts over time, they eventually rated him as one of the top collegiate pitching prospects.[2]

College baseball career (2005–08)

Harris attended college at the United States Naval Academy, majoring in general engineering, and playing college baseball as a pitcher and infielder for the Midshipmen. Having ended up at the Academy by chance, a Navy football recruiter named Buddy Green watched him pitch a bullpen session in high school. Green found out that Harris was not interested in football, but was open to attending the Naval Academy, so he made phone calls on his behalf.[2] In spite of the path that led to his entrance into Navy, Harris spent his freshman year as a corner infielder and utility player.[3]

However, when incoming coach Paul Kostacopoulos watched Harris throw during a practice session after his freshman season, he asked him to pitch in the bullpen, where he reached 91 miles per hour (146 km/h). Impressed with the tryout, Kostacopoulos expanded Harris' role to pitching.[3] As a sophomore, he claimed the Patriot League pitching triple crown with a 10–3 record, 1.74 earned run average (ERA) and 113 strikeouts (SO) in 13 games started. He also hit one home run with 27 runs batted in (RBI) and a .333 batting average.[1]

The next season, as a junior, Harris went 8–5 with a 2.14 ERA and a Patriot League-record 119 strikeouts. He also emerged as a force on offense, with a league-leading eight home runs, 47 RBI and a .293 average. He also led Navy in runs batted in, doubles (10), triples (four) and slugging percentage (.534). Baseball America named Harris a third-team All-American.[1] One of his teammates at Navy, Oliver Drake, also a pitcher, was a selection in the same amateur draft, and made his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles the month following Harris.[4] Harris' college pitching career totals included a record of 20–13 with a 2.51 ERA and 291 strikeouts over ​222 13 innings. At the plate, he batted .295 with 105 runs scored, 16 home runs and 112 RBI.[5] When he graduated, he was one of the highest-rated pitching prospects for the amateur draft, with a fastball that could reach 95 miles per hour (153 km/h) and a cutter with the ability to break bats.[6]

U.S. Naval service (2008–13)

Following graduation in 2008 from the Naval Academy, Harris served in the United States Navy for four years, eight months and eight days, attaining the rank of Lieutenant (LT).[7] He was based in Norfolk, Virginia, and deployed a total of three times.[8] One was to the Persian Gulf on the USS Ponce, a 577 feet (176 m) amphibious transport dock, where he served as a weapons officer.[3] LT Harris then contributed to a diplomatic mission to Russia on the USS Carr, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, and to South America for anti-drug operations. He also went to the Baltic states and served as a combat information officer and a training officer.[8] In his time in the military, he visited more than 30 countries.[3]

While aboard ship, Harris played catch whenever he could to keep his pitching skills as well-tuned as possible. He always took his glove, and his father sent bags of balls to him, as they often skipped overboard. His throwing partner was a cook from the Dominican Republic.[8]

Both of Harris' grandfathers served in the United States military during World War II. Also a member of the Navy, Louin Harris fought in the Battle of Midway. Serving in the Army, James Chamberlain fought in the Battle of the Bulge.[9]

Professional baseball career (2013–present)

The Atlanta Braves selected Harris in the 24th round of the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft, but he did not sign.[10] He was then drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round of the 2008 MLB Draft. He signed with the Cardinals but was unable to play until 2013 due to his commitment to the Navy.[11][12][13][14] He twice petitioned for early release from active duty Navy to the reserves to commence his professional baseball career,[15] in the manner of NBA legend David Robinson. However, the Navy denied Harris' request both times, citing the contemporaneous war in Afghanistan as the reason.[6] John Abbamondi, a former Naval flight officer and the Cardinals' assistant general manager while Harris was in the Navy, wrote letters on his behalf for the early release.[2]

First professional season: State College (2013)

After his five years in service ended in 2013, Harris started his professional baseball career in the Cardinals' minor league system, making his debut with the State College Spikes of the New York–Penn League.[16] After his absence from competition, Harris' fastball velocity had dipped to the low 80s miles per hour. However, the velocity eventually returned to the level of his college playing time. He played for State College exclusively in 2013, appearing in 20 games and going 4–1 with a 0.81 ERA and 29 SO in ​33 13 IP.[8]

Palm Beach, Springfield and Memphis (2014)

Harris started 2014 with the Palm Beach Cardinals of the High-A Florida State League. After eight games, St. Louis promoted him to the Double-A Springfield Cardinals.[17] Harris made his final regular season appearance with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.[3] Overall, he had a 3.92 ERA in ​57 13 innings. After the season, he competed with Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League, an off-season showcase of major league prospects, where he was the oldest player by three years.[6]

St. Louis Cardinals (2015–2017)

Reassigned to Memphis to start the 2015 season, the Cardinals called Harris up on April 21.[18] He became the first Naval Academy alumnus in Major League Baseball since Nemo Gaines in 1921, and just the second ever.[19] Harris made his big-league pitching debut at Miller Park in Milwaukee against the Brewers on Saturday, April 25, in relief of starter Adam Wainwright, who had injured himself as he ran to first base on a pop out while batting.[20] Harris entered the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, and struck out the first batter he faced, Adam Lind. Harris pitched ​1 13 innings, allowing no runs in the Cardinals' 5–3 win.[21][22]

On May 5, Harris recorded his first MLB win after pitching a scoreless sixth inning in the Cardinals' 7–4 victory over the Chicago Cubs.[23] Through his first seven appearances and ​7 23 innings pitched, he did not allow a run, until May 10 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.[24] On June 19, after appearing in 16 games with a 1–1 record and a 3.63 ERA, the Cardinals optioned him back to Memphis.[25] Harris appeared in five more games and ​5 13 IP at Memphis, allowing three runs on seven hits, before a July 4 recall to the major league club.[26] One week later, the Cardinals placed him on the 15-day DL with a groin strain.[27] He appeared in 26 games, all in relief, finished with a 2–1 record, 3.67 ERA and 13 walks while striking out 15 in 27 innings. After the season, he received the Tony Conigliaro Award, accorded to a player who "has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Tony C.," per former Boston Red Sox historian Dick Bresciani.[28]

An arm soreness delaying Harris' spring training preparation, the Cardinals placed him on the disabled list prior to the start of the 2016 season due to nerve compression syndrome.[29] He underwent surgery in June and missed the remainder of the season.[30] Harris sought second and third opinions and instead of the expected "Tommy John surgery", he had “primary repair,” or “UCL repair with internal brace construction,” which may have a shorter recovery time and hopes to pitch in 2017.[31] He was released on May 9, 2017.[32]

See also

St. Louis Cardinals all-time roster

References

  1. ^ a b c "Mitch Harris midshipman profile". Navy Sports. www.navysports.com. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Nightengale, Bob (May 21, 2015). "After Naval stint 'much bigger than me,' Mitch Harris takes on major leagues". USA Today. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Fordin, Spencer (October 23, 2014). "Navy grad Harris finally pursuing MLB dream". MLB.com (stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com).
  4. ^ Melewski, Steve (May 25, 2015). "Oliver Drake on making the majors and hearing from his Navy friends". Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (www.masnsports.com). Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  5. ^ "Navy Baseball alum Mitch Harris on the cusp of MLB spot". Navy Sports. www.navysports.com. March 31, 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Bradley, Jeff (October 28, 2014). "After five years in the Navy, Mitch Harris chases his big league dream". Sports Illustrated.
  7. ^ Langosch, Jenifer (March 23, 2015). "Navy grad Harris knocking on big league door". MLB.com. stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com.
  8. ^ a b c d McDonald, Anna (May 1, 2015). "From the Navy to the majors, Cardinals pitcher Mitch Harris carries on". ESPN.com. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  9. ^ Timmerman, Tom (May 26, 2015). "Memorial Day is special for Cards reliever Harris". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  10. ^ "Navy's Harris picked by Braves in MLB draft". Capital Gazette. June 2007. Archived from the original on 2014-11-02.
  11. ^ St. Louis Cardinals MLB.com (February 28, 2009). "Cardinals sign Midshipman Mitch Harris". MLB.com. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  12. ^ "Naval pitcher denied chance at professional baseball". ESPN.com. Associated Press. June 12, 2008. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  13. ^ Miller, Ed (June 13, 2008). "Navy won't let sailor pursue pro-baseball career". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  14. ^ Booher, Kary (November 27, 2010). "Harris waiting on pro baseball dream". The News Leader (www.news-leader.com). Archived from the original on November 2, 2014. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  15. ^ Goold, Derrick (February 11, 2013). "Long voyage ends for Cardinals prospect". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  16. ^ Carter, Aaron (June 14, 2013). "After Navy service, pitcher Harris sails into baseball career". Centre Daily Times. Archived from the original on July 1, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  17. ^ Booher, Kary (May 27, 2014). "Naval Academy grad set to begin season for Cardinals' Double-A squad". Springfield Leader (via Navy Times www.navytimes.com website). Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  18. ^ Thompson, Lucas (April 21, 2015). "Cardinals call up Naval Academy graduate Mitch Harris". Fox Sports Midwest. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  19. ^ Berg, Ted (April 21, 2015). "Cardinals call up MLB's first U.S. Naval Academy grad since 1921". USA Today. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  20. ^ Thompson, Luke (April 25, 2015). "Anchors Aweigh: Cards' Harris becomes first Navy grad to play in MLB in 94 years". Fox Sports Midwest. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  21. ^ "Cardinals beat Brewers after Wainwright leaves with injury". ESPN.com. Associated Press. April 26, 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  22. ^ "Cardinals 5, Brewers 3 play-by-play". ESPN.com. April 25, 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  23. ^ Goold, Derrick (May 6, 2015). "Cardinals keep the rallies coming". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  24. ^ "Mitch Harris 2015 pitching game logs". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  25. ^ Thompson, Luke (June 19, 2015). "Cardinals call up Scruggs, Garcia, send down Harris, Easley". Fox Sport Midwest.
  26. ^ FOX Sports Midwest (July 4, 2015). "Cardinals recall Navy vet Harris on Independence Day; Greg Garcia sent down". Fox Sport Midwest. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
  27. ^ Hummel, Rick (July 11, 2015). "McCutchen's HR wins for Pirates in 14th". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  28. ^ "Cardinals pitcher Mitch Harris wins 2015 Tony Conigliaro Award". Fox Sports. Associated Press. December 15, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
  29. ^ RotoWire Staff (March 26, 2016). "Cardinals' Mitch Harris: Will open season on disabled list". CBSSports.com. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  30. ^ Bowman, Mark (July 3, 2016). "Cards reliever, Navy grad Harris invited to Fort Bragg". MLB.com. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  31. ^ Goold, Derrick. "Mitch Harris eager to show Cardinals result of elbow surgery". stltoday.com. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  32. ^ http://m.cardinals.mlb.com/news/article/229251792/cards-release-reliever-navy-officer-harris/

External links

  • Career statistics and player information from MLB, or Baseball-Reference, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
  • Navy Midshipmen bio
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