Navy veteran makes MLB debut


USA Today Sports

Linden Moore, Managing Editor

It is not uncommon for United States veterans to come back stateside and find a job after deployment; however, for former United States Navy Lieutenant officer Mitchell Harris, his job consisted of returning to Major League baseball to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals. The twenty eight year old pitcher has become the first Naval officer to be called up to the Major Leagues since 1921.

Harris, a Naval Academy graduate, was drafted in 2008 by the St. Louis Cardinals, but had to put his baseball career on hold due to meeting the requirement of five years of service after graduation. While Harris had the option to walk out of the Academy after his sophomore year, he chose to stay and sign on for an additional seven years- two more at Annapolis, and then five in deployment.

However, this dream was not easy to achieve, as he often got discouraged while overseas during his tours of the Persian Gulf, South America, and Russia. Despite this, he found a way to make it work. While he was out at sea, Harris would throw the ball with one of the chefs upon returning to his quarters. But nonetheless, Harris kept chasing the dream he had wanted since he was four years old, and kept working out until he was able to return stateside. When he finally did return, he pitched at State College, Pennsylvania, where he posted a 0.81 Earned Run Average (ERA), and eventually moved rapidly through the Cardinal’s farm system. After a year’s plus worth of solid hard work, Harris received a call saying he made the roster.

“When the phone call came in, obviously it hit me that this is finally happening. But once I hit the field, it’s just like every other day. It’s the same game, the same things happening. I think once the warm-ups were finished I really felt, ‘OK, now I’m ready,” Harris said of the experience of being called up.

He made his debut on April 25 after coming in as relief for pitcher Adam Wainwright, and stayed strong for 1 ⅓ innings.

“When it’s all said and done, I want to be known as a good pitcher, a good ballplayer and a good teammate,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to prove now, that I do belong here. I’m not here because I have a good story, I’m here because I’m a good pitcher.”

The path Harris took to the Major Leagues may be a “road less travelled,” but it also shows students that there is more than one way to achieve their dreams; or that being undecided about their future career paths is okay. As long as we persevere, believe, and stay determined, any dream can come to life.