You’ll be hard pressed to find a more Major League-ready baseball player in the Southern Crescent than Luella’s Bryant Harris. Currently batting .556 with a .889 slugging percentage and six doubles, the senior centerfielder is off to a hot start, despite his team’s 1-5 beginning to the season.
Thecrecentbuzz.com had a chance to catch up with the Major League hopeful to get his thoughts on everything from his senior year sentiments, to playing at Turner Field in April and possibly going pro next year.
SCBUZZ: You’re off to a hot start this year. What do you think is contributing to that?
HARRIS: “I’m really seeing the ball well this year. It’s the culmination of just a lot of work finding my swing and finding the barrel of the bat during the offseason and while I was injured, perfecting my swing. I worked a lot on developing muscle memory, working to get more back spin off the ball as I hit, and using my legs more to get more power into my swing. I’m really reaching for a goal of hitting 12 home runs. this season.”
SCBUZZ: We know you were coming off a torn quad injury last year. How did you manage to work on that swing even while limited?
“You know, I am able to work on my balance a lot even when I’m just sitting around the house. I have a big mirror in my room, so a lot of times when I have nothing else to do, I just pick up a bat and start swinging in my house in front of the mirror like I would when I’m in a game. There’s not a lot of time during the week to get to the cages, so I try my best to get in as many good hacks as I can during practice and even right before a game.”
SCBUZZ: How is that quad feeling now? Are you back to 100 percent?
HARRIS: “Oh yeah. It feels more than great. Better than good. I feel better than I’ve ever felt even before the injury.”
SCBUZZ: You’re off to a great start, but the team, not so much. What’s been the struggle early on?
HARRIS: “I guess it’s just still a little chip on the shoulder from us losing like we did to Lambert last year. And then losing a lot of the starters has been tough. We lost every starter from last year in the infield which means we’ve had to call upon a lot of juniors like Austin Visocchi, Cal Gepfer, Chase Hamrick and our catcher Devin Connell. That’s just to name a few. They’re still being acclimated to the varsity atmosphere, and they still have to fill in some big shoes.
“But it’s just the beginning of the season, just some mistakes we have to continue to fix. During our first four games, we committed at least 20 something errors. Then after that, we’ve only committed two errors on defense the past two games. That means we’re starting to come together and play sound defense as a unit in the infield. Everybody’s gotta get a lot more comfortable in where they are. But we’re still competing and everyone is finding their niche.”
SCBUZZ: Do you feel like these are mistakes that can be fixed to create a different looking team, say, by the time you guys play at Turner Field next month?
HARRIS: “Well, I believe growing pains have something to do with it. But we’ve got a guy in Jameson Eichelberger who has stepped up and become a leader in the infield. He’s gone from swinging the bat well last year to being able to put all aspects of the game together. He’s a role model and really helping them out out there. He’s going to help this team mature. Our coach can’t do it all.”
SCBUZZ: So after three rainouts last year, you guys are going to get another crack at making the Union Grove game at Turner Field happen. Were you guys pretty upset about not being able to play it last year?
HARRIS: “Yeah we were pretty bummed out last year. I think that game was rescheduled twice, and like you said, it rained out three times. We had done a lot of preparation for that game. But we’re definitely glad we’re going to be able to try it again. This year, Union Grove has a pretty good team themselves, and we’re really going to have to prepare ourselves for the game with them. To me, right now, that’s one of the biggest games of the season because nobody wants to get embarrassed out there on Turner Field. I’m just excited about the new group of guys and how they’ll play in that atmosphere. I feel like with the team we had last year, we were gonna put it to Union Grove when we had the chance. But this year we know we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
SCBUZZ: Talk about the MLB Draft. What’s the magic number, so to speak, to make you skip going to Tennessee and head straight for the pros?
HARRIS: “I don’t know. All the mock drafts are pretty much over. I get a lot of scouts coming to the games. Making a lot of contacts, and the area scouts of a lot of teams keep in touch. After this spring and when June comes, we will have a decision to announce to whoever about how I’m going to pursue my baseball career. I’m pretty excited about the Draft because I think I can go pretty high. In the mock draft 48th pick overall. That’s like second round.
“If it played out that way, it would be hard to pass up. But there are always circumstances, and there are always X-factors that come with going to school or going to pro baseball. I’m excited to see what happens. I’ll just keep playing my best and try to keep impressing scouts so this draft will be an easy process. After it’s said and done, and I feel like I’ve made my best decision. I’ll be satisfied with having made a sound decision when that time comes.”
SCBUZZ: You talked about your personal goals. What are the goals of your team, and how do you as a team leader articulate those goals?
HARRIS: “I try to influence the guys as much as I can. Confidence has really been a big part of my game and a big factor of my success. I want our guys to be able to accept failure and move on and have a short memory. There are big shoes to fill. Some people may feel like they may not match up and that the coaches are looking for last year’s starter inside of this year’s starters. But I tell them to be their own player. I want my team to come out and play with more swagger. I think that will improve the tempo of the game and get everybody excited to play. When that happens, everybody’s happy whether we’re winning or losing. We’ll have the mindset to just go out and get the job done.”