MILWAUKEE (WITI) — It is said in sports, there is always a chance to see something that hasn’t been seen before. There is a special moment that happened in Milwaukee, and many didn’t even know it!
Ever since Miller Park opened in April of 2001, it has been the host of many historical moments — from the All-Star game that ended in a tie, to Carlos Zambrano’s no hitter against the Astros while pitching for the Cubs, along with a couple different Brewers playoff runs.
Every year, Miller Park is the place where some players’ magical moment happens: They get to make their Major League debut!
It happened for St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mitch Harris during a recent trip through Milwaukee.
“It was a dream come true. Being here, I think this is day 5. Every day I just wanted to get in, you know?” Harris said.
It happened in a strange way, too. Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright injured his Achilles tendon while running to first base. He had to leave the game.
“It was a phone call, and they just said ‘hey, you’re in the next inning,’ so there was no time to think about it. Obviously when I ran out, you start to feel it a little bit. Once I threw a couple of pitches, Tony and I talked and I was ready to go,” Harris said.
Harris would pitch one-and-a-third scoreless innings in his debut, helping the Cardinals beat the Brewers.
“It was that sigh of relief to just kind of get that first one under your belt — just to relax and say ‘there’s no more anxiousness to get the first one.’ Now, I can go out and actually just pitch and relax. But it was good to finally get that one out of the way,” Harris said.
But there was something bigger that happened when the bullpen door opened and Harris’ name was announced — something that hadn’t happened in Major League baseball in 94 years!
Harris became the first Naval Academy graduate to play in a Major League game since Nemo Gaines played for the Washington Senators in 1921 — something that wasn’t lost on Harris.
“It means a lot. That place is really special to me, the Naval Academy, and then spending the five years I did in the Navy, it’s really close to my heart. To be able to bring light to both of those is very special. So it means a lot to go out and represent the Naval Academy and the Navy. I’m very proud of that,” Harris said.
While Harris’ magical moment happened at Miller Park, in the halls of Annapolis…
“You look at the David Robinson’s and Roger Staubach’s — those guys did the same thing. Those are guys that I looked up to especially because they went through the exact type of scenario that I did,” Harris said. “At the Academy, you definitely know those names and know the histories there. It was easy for me to look back and try to find guys that I needed to look to and look up to during those times.”
Like Staubach and Robinson, Harris left the Academy and served as an officer in the Navy before getting his chance to play in the Major Leagues.
“The five years with not playing took a toll on my arm, especially. I kept my body in really good shape knowing that it was going to be a possibility. But that way, when I came back I could really push my arm,” Harris said.
As Harris continues to live out a dream, he will always know what got him here.
“Because of the Academy, I am who I am. And because of the Navy, I’m the man I am today. I’ll always be indebted to them. And I’ll always be able to show my appreciation to them,” Harris said.
Harris had the chance to leave the Academy without having to serve in the Navy after his second year. Instead, he chose to finish and fulfill his responsibility to serve for five years. He says he’ll always give back to the Academy and the Navy whenever he can.