Braves’ Michael Harris aims to give back to city he loves so much

Atlanta Braves' Michael Harris II (23) crosses home plate after hitting a home run against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Nic Coury)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves' Michael Harris II (23) crosses home plate after hitting a home run against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Nic Coury)

On many of his rides to baseball and football practice growing up, Michael Harris II would see a lot of homeless people right off the highway.

He often would give them any loose change or money he had in his car. Or maybe his leftover food.

“It’s just one of those things where you wish you could help,” the Braves’ center fielder said Thursday at Truist Park. “You don’t know what happened or what they went through to get in that situation, but yeah, any way possible, I would try to give back.”

Now armed with the platform and means to give back to a city he loves so much, Harris founded the Catch 23 Foundation – which has a mission of delivering emotional-support animals to those in need, as well as helping underprivileged children and families in unrepresented areas.

The Stockbridge High grad, who moved forward with the idea to start a foundation during his rookie season in 2022, is hosting the second annual “Balls & Strikes with Money Mike Bowling Night” on Friday. Teammate Travis d’Arnaud is on the guest list, as is Dodgers star Mookie Betts, whose bowling skills have propelled him to competing in professional tournaments in his off-time.

“I think it just means so much more because I have a personal connection with this city, and I kind of know what goes on around the city,” Harris said of helping those in Atlanta. “So it’s just one of those things where I can just feel a personal connection to it.”

The impressive part: He is 22 years old. And when he donated money to help those affected by the water crisis in Mississippi, he was a 21-year-old rookie making a league minimum salary.

Harris is not consumed with himself. He’s focused on helping others.

And he’s doing it in ways he loves.

If Harris were not playing baseball, he would be a veterinarian. He grew up loving animals. So he wanted to give emotional-support animals to those who could use them – to promote mental health.

“I don’t know where my love of animals came from because I never had a pet growing up, but I always knew I wanted to be a vet and do something with animals,” Harris said. “I would wake up every morning and watch Animal Planet before I went to school. I made sure I did that. I guess that’s one of the only things that woke me up because if I didn’t, I would probably fall back asleep and miss school.”

Toward the end of the 2023 season, Harris got his first pet: A Goldendoodle he named “Cash,” which is fitting for “Money Mike.” (“I had to do that,” Harris said of Cash’s fitting name.)

When Harris was younger, his mother, LaTaucha Harris, would take Michael and his sister to feed the homeless around Thanksgiving.

“It’s one of those things where I really enjoyed giving back, and it wasn’t forced,” Harris said. “I really enjoy it.”

LaTaucha and her husband, Michael Harris Sr., instilled lessons in their kids. Always be polite. No matter what you have, find a way to give back. It could be financial, or it could be with advice.

Now with a platform, Michael has given more and more of his time. He shows up to places, which can make the days of those who need a lift. He’s looking to continue the momentum with the Catch 23 Foundation.

In his charity work, Harris has found a way to combine his love of animals and desire to give back.

“A lot of us players are, I guess, regular people off the field,” Harris said. “I guess a lot of people don’t get to know that because they only see us on TV. Us baseball players, we don’t really feel as big as everybody else makes us feel. We’re normal people, we like to do a lot of normal stuff and we have a lot of interests like everybody else.”

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