The Braves never have been shy about drafting local talent. But in their third round pick this year, they took homegrown to practically a new level.
Stockbridge High’s Michael Harris, taken in the draft’s second day, 98th overall, has Braves connections intertwined all through his upbringing as a player. He played for years for the Marquis Grissom Baseball Association in south Atlanta, the same Marquis Grissom who collected the final out in the Braves 1995 World Series championship.
And when Harris shined at a showcase bearing the name of Henry Aaron – pitching a couple no-hit innings, hitting a double, winning the home run derby – his notoriety up-ticked in a big way.
“It has been pretty unbelievable. I still can’t believe I got drafted by my dream team,” Harris said Monday, as he visited SunTrust Field after signing with the team. He’ll report Tuesday to the Braves facility in North Port, Fla.
Weighing his skills, the Braves went everyday over all else.
“Early this spring, we saw him pitch and play the outfield,” said Dana Brown the Braves’ VP of scouting. “After he came out from pitching, I knew he was an outfielder. He had a little power, could run a little bit. Roaming in the outfield, he looked pretty good.”
“He had a good arm, threw up to 91. No doubt he could have been some type of prospect as a pitcher but we thought his upside would be in the outfield.”
The kid agreed.
“Knowing the person I am, I want to compete every day,” Harris said. “I don’t really like to sit and wait for my turn to play.”
And if he is going to play outfield, having Grissom as a mentor is a very good start.
Harris credits Grissom with greatly improving his outfield play, stressing the mental aspects of baseball as much as the physical. Before practices, he said, Grissom would go over all kinds of possible game situations and how to react to them in the outfield. “He put a lot in my brain,” Harris said.
And, yes, even though the catch happened before he was born, Harris has seen replays of Grissom’s famous Series-ending moment. Several times.
He’s off to Florida now. But can’t wait to get back home. “I know I have a lot of support here in Atlanta. I’m just ready to play,” he said.
And the Braves, always clued in to the importance of shopping locally, are eager as ever to see another hometown player advance.
“I think it’s great when you have a local kid,” Brown said. “We take the best player available but if he happens to be a local kid, that’s icing on the cake.”
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