This story is a companion piece to the video above. To hear from Harris, click on News 4's one-on-one with Mitch Harris from spring training.
JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- Every Cardinal fan knows Mitch Harris had a long and winding road to the majors. His detour from baseball into the Navy was a major talking point last season, and mentioned nearly every time he took the mound for the Cardinals.
Now, a season removed from the fanfare and media fixation, we get to know Harris the pitcher. The 13th round pick compiled impressive stats last season, throwing 27 innings and holding opponents hitless in nine of his 26 appearances.
For most pitchers, progress is measured by steps taken from the pitcher they are to the pitcher they can be. Harris’ last few years have been defined more by reclamation. He had to get back to where he was before he could move forward, and 2015 saw him find his form in June.
From June 7th to September 7th, the 30-year-old made nine scoreless appearances. He threw 10 innings, allowed four hits and struck out five. It was the kind of dependability in scattered work that defines a good reliever.
Now in spring camp, Harris has a chance to go beyond chasing a dream. He can forge himself a career. He’s been rebuilding his skill set over the last few seasons, and now that he’s succeeded in the majors, he knows what it takes to stay there.
“I see Mitch as a guy, with the service he did give to our country, there was a little gap there,” Mike Matheny said. “He’s been constantly getting better because he’s getting more repetition.”
The discipline required to handle repetition is something Harris has already learned. Even if it won’t be the talking point of 2016, his time in the Navy is still very much a part of Harris as a player. He carries himself like a leader in the clubhouse, speaking with ease to minor-leaguers and MLB vets alike. His training is purposeful and methodical, like an actor running lines in their living room. Athletic success takes focus and fortitude, and in that arena, Matheny says Harris didn’t have any lost time.
“The discipline, just sit and have a conversation with him and you can see the military impact in a positive way. There’s just leadership characteristics that come through. As far as the discipline of being able to get in there and get the work done,” the manager said. “Then being able to handle failure, being able to handle success. Those are all things I think he’s been properly trained for and he’s a great voice to have inside our clubhouse.”
Get to know Mitch Harris in our video package above.