NORTH PORT, Fla. – Growing up in metro Atlanta, Michael Harris watched - and idolized - the Braves.
Harris, a massive Atlanta sports fan, dreamed of one day wearing the uniform and cap. After receiving the call last spring, he put together a remarkable rookie campaign that ended with him winning National League Rookie of the Year.
What’s in store for the encore?
Harris, who attended the Braves’ World Series parade in 2021 as a minor leaguer, hopes to one day attend another – this time as a major leaguer. And if he continues on his current trajectory, he could become one of the best players in the game.
Here is a quick interview with Harris, Atlanta’s starting center fielder:
Q: So if you think back to last year, when the Braves called you up and you got to Truist Park that day, what was that like to be there for the first time as a member of the major-league club?
A: I think it was exciting. It’s something I didn’t expect going into the season. It was a huge moment for me and then going into this season, actually having my first opening day means a lot. I’m gonna cherish that moment the same I did when I get called up. Both moments are going to be great, and I’m just going to cherish them.
Q: After seeing opening day from afar, what do you expect the emotions to be like when you experience that environment for the first time?
A: Well, we’re starting off on the road, so I don’t know what to expect going into Washington. But I know either way, we’re gonna come out and it’s gonna probably be electric. So I can’t wait to get back home and have opening day there. I know for sure it’s gonna be electric and the fans are ready for us to get back and start this season. We got some unfinished business and we’re just ready to kick off the season.
Q: What do you need to do to exceed your rookie season?
A: I don’t think it’s anything big. It’s just improving on some of the little things, some things that can, I guess, give me that next step or (help me) get over that hump and make me a better player. I wouldn’t say it’s anything huge. Just like to improve in everything. The season’s up and down, so you’re not always having a good season, you’re not always having a bad season. It’s a bunch of adjustments that go into it. I really don’t have one thing. I’m just ready to get started.
Q: You went to the parade when the Braves won a World Series in 2021. How much does that experience drive you to win one now?
A: It was another huge moment. I was actually in the streets, walking the streets, nobody really knew. I blended in well. I was just there to cherish the moment and kind of enjoy something I’ve been waiting to see pretty much my whole life being a Braves fan. It happened and now I’m trying to do the same thing as a player.
Q: I don’t know if you remember, but there was a kid on Halloween that dressed up as you, with the jersey and everything. It was on Twitter. What was that like to see?
A: That’s actually crazy because I grew up with a lot of people and they were the same kid, just wanted to dress up as your favorite celebrity or athlete going to get some candy. That means a lot. And he did a phenomenal job and did it to a T. He was spot on with the glasses, the headband and the batting stance. Kudos to him. He actually looked better than I do. It means a lot for me to be able to see that.
Q: A lot of young baseball players want to be where you are now. What’s your advice to them?
A: I say believe in yourself and just stick to your goal. Have a plan and stick to it. If it all goes wrong, then of course have a backup plan. But just believe in yourself and what you can do to get to your ultimate goal.
Q: When you were a kid, who were the athletes you idolized?
A: Me being from Atlanta, definitely Jason Heyward. I like Chipper, I like Andruw Jones. My main guy was -- I liked Ken Griffey Jr a lot. I like to model myself after him. He did a lot of great things. Five-tool guy, so yeah. I kind of model myself after him, and a lot of people gave me that comparison as well.