Harrison Hopes To Carry On Tradition

Harrison Hopes To Carry On Tradition

The Queen City has always been recognized as a baseball town, but that recognition has been earned for more reasons than just the success and longevity of the Reds. Cincinnati has produced scores of major league players over the years with one of the latest being University of Cincinnati and Sycamore High School graduate Kevin Youkilis, now with the Boston Red Sox.

Bearcat sophomore, Josh Harrison, hopes to be the next local product to find his way to major league baseball. 

 

Few Bearcat baseball players have created a more impressive resume in only one season.  After his freshman campaign at Marge Schott Field, Harrison was named 3rd team All Big East, a Louisville Slugger All-American, and the top hitting prospect of the Great Lakes Summer League playing for the Cincinnati Steam.  These awards followed a season that saw Josh lead the senior laden Bearcats in many of the most important offensive categories including hitting (.367), runs (67), and hits (84).  The Princeton High grad was also among the leaders in the Big East in runs (2nd), on-base percentage (5th) and hits (6th).  As if that wasn't enough, the fuzzy faced freshman was 2nd on the team in stolen bases while playing six different defensive positions.  That eye-popping freshman year hasn't been followed by a sophomore slump either.  Josh went into Friday's opening game against Chicago State hitting .316 and leading the squad in runs, home runs, RBI, and on-base percentage.

 

Although his numbers are big, his stature is anything but.  Josh gave some of his measurables.  "I'd say 5' 7' and about 175 pounds."  Josh has never been timed in the forty-yard-dash since baseball players seldom run that distance, but he was quick enough to steal 10 bases in 58 games last year.  This season he already has 9 swipes after only 16 games.  He explained the reasons for his increased thievery.  "I have the green light this year.  Last year was a little different.  I was hitting in front of Logan Parker.  Most of the time he would hit a ball into the gap, and I would easily score from first.  Also having the green light this year means I can go on a pitch I want."

 

Even though Harrison is only a sophomore, he is one of the veterans of the club since the Bearcats lost so many seniors to graduation.  Josh is aware of his increased responsibility as a team leader.  "I try to take it upon myself to be a leader because we have a pretty young team.  As a freshman last year, I played in every game and got experience.  For the transfers and other new guys, I try to help them out and make sure we're all doing everything we should be and staying focused."

 

In 2006, Harrison was a jack-of-all-trades defender.  He played second base, third base, shortstop, left field, right field and even catcher.  This season Josh is settling in as the every day second baseman and having to make some adjustments.  "It's a little different.  Of all the positions you just named, it's the one I'm taking the most time to get adjusted to.  It's a little different than playing the left side of the infield.  With more repetition at second, I'll get better and better so I just need to get adjusted to it."  At Princeton High School, Josh was an all-city shortstop that helped lead the Vikings to the 2005 Ohio Division I baseball final four.  Harrison's Vikings lost in their semi-final game to Toledo Start (6-4), but Start lost to another Cincinnati team, Elder (3-0), in the state championship game.

 

Another change this year for Harrison is his position in the batting order.  Last year, Josh batted second in the order behind LaFringe Hayes and ahead of Logan Parker.  This year Josh has been moved to the critical and challenging third spot.  "Yeah, it's been a big adjustment that I'm still trying to get used to.  I'm seeing a lot more off-speed pitches, not just the first and second pitches.  It's making me be more disciplined, but at times I'm not.  Today (Friday), I wasn't.  It's taking some time to get adjusted to it."

 

Despite having a great career at Princeton, Harrison was not selected in the major league draft, but he will again be eligible after his junior year at Cincinnati.  Like most college players, he's hoping to get his shot at the "bigs," and his family seems to be almost making draft parties a family tradition.  "My older brother played at UK from '99 to 2001.  Then he got drafted by Tampa Bay, but he's been with a few different teams.  Now he's with the Florida Marlins in spring training.  He's been hurt so I don't know where he'll end up."  Josh also has a cousin that was drafted.  "My cousin played at UK last year and got drafted by the White Sox."  Josh hopes he's next in line.  "I like to hope so, but only time will tell.  I'm just going to keep working hard, and if it happens, it happens."

 

Setting personal goals is not a part of Harrison's game plan.  "I always want to do good because I know if I do well, it helps the team.  I'd like to improve on every stat from last year because I know it will only help our team in the long run."

 

In November, Coach Cleary signed a player that Josh knows very well, Chris Dixon.  Josh and Chris were keystone combination teammates at Princeton High School.  As previously mentioned, Josh played primarily shortstop at Princeton, and Chris was his second baseman when the Vikings went to the state semifinals in 2005.  Josh talked about his old buddy.  "He brings a lot to the table.  He's a pretty athletic guy.  He'll probably do the same as I did my freshman year and play a lot of positions.  He's a speedy guy and a nice kid."

 

Harrison's speed and consistent contact at the plate put pressure on the oppositions' defenses.  Last season, Josh had a strikeout for every 12 at bats.  This year it has been even better with one whiff for every 14 to 15 at bats.  Josh explained his attitude at the plate.  "I always want to swing at the pitch I want.  Most of the time strikeouts come from chasing a pitcher's pitch.  If I see a pitch I can hit, I try to put a good swing on it.  If I get out, I get out."

 

Young players winning numerous accolades can lead to disastrous egos, but that's definitely not the case with Josh.  "I'm not focused on the awards.  I'm focused on winning games.  You can't win awards if the team doesn't win.  Sure, I got some personal accomplishments, but it was with the help of my teammates."

 

The Bearcats return to action Saturday at 4 o'clock against Chicago State and conclude the series on Sunday at 1 o'clock.  For all Bearcat baseball stats and further coverage, visit gobearcats.com where Shawn Sell has everything you could possibly want to know about Bearcat baseball.

 

Also, later this week, Bearcat Insider will have a story about the four high school baseball players UC signed in November.    

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