The Queen City has always been recognized as a baseball town, but that recognition has been earned for more reasons than just the success and longevity of the Reds. Cincinnati has produced scores of major league players over the years with one of the latest being University of Cincinnati and Sycamore High School graduate Kevin Youkilis, now with the Boston Red Sox.
Bearcat sophomore, Josh Harrison, hopes to be the next
local product to find his way to major league baseball.
Few Bearcat baseball players have created a more impressive resume in
only one season. After his freshman
campaign at Marge Schott Field, Harrison was named 3rd team All Big East, a
Louisville Slugger All-American, and the top hitting prospect of the Great Lakes
Summer League playing for the Cincinnati Steam. These awards followed a season that saw
Josh lead the senior laden Bearcats in many of the most important offensive
categories including hitting (.367), runs (67), and hits (84). The Princeton High grad was also among
the leaders in the Big East in runs (2nd), on-base percentage
(5th) and hits (6th). As if that wasn't enough, the fuzzy
faced freshman was 2nd on the team in stolen bases while playing six
different defensive positions. That
eye-popping freshman year hasn't been followed by a sophomore slump either. Josh went into Friday's opening game
State hitting .316 and
leading the squad in runs, home runs, RBI, and on-base percentage.
Although his numbers are big, his stature is anything but. Josh gave some of his measurables. "I'd say 5' 7' and about 175
pounds." Josh has never been timed
in the forty-yard-dash since baseball players seldom run that distance, but he
was quick enough to steal 10 bases in 58 games last year. This season he already has 9 swipes
after only 16 games. He explained
the reasons for his increased thievery.
"I have the green light this year.
Last year was a little different.
I was hitting in front of Logan Parker. Most of the time he would hit a ball
into the gap, and I would easily score from first. Also having the green light this year
means I can go on a pitch I want."
Even though Harrison is only a
sophomore, he is one of the veterans of the club since the Bearcats lost so many
seniors to graduation. Josh is
aware of his increased responsibility as a team leader. "I try to take it upon myself to be a
leader because we have a pretty young team. As a freshman last year, I played in
every game and got experience. For
the transfers and other new guys, I try to help them out and make sure we're all
doing everything we should be and staying focused."
In 2006, Harrison was a
jack-of-all-trades defender. He
played second base, third base, shortstop, left field, right field and even
catcher. This season Josh is
settling in as the every day second baseman and having to make some
adjustments. "It's a little
different. Of all the positions you
just named, it's the one I'm taking the most time to get adjusted to. It's a little different than playing the
left side of the infield. With more
repetition at second, I'll get better and better so I just need to get adjusted
to it." At Princeton High School, Josh was an all-city
shortstop that helped lead the Vikings to the 2005 Ohio Division I baseball
final four. Harrison's Vikings lost
in their semi-final game to Toledo Start (6-4), but Start lost to another
Elder (3-0), in the state championship game.
Another change this year for Harrison is
his position in the batting order.
Last year, Josh batted second in the order behind LaFringe Hayes and
ahead of Logan Parker. This year
Josh has been moved to the critical and challenging third spot. "Yeah, it's been a big adjustment that
I'm still trying to get used to.
I'm seeing a lot more off-speed pitches, not just the first and second
pitches. It's making me be more
disciplined, but at times I'm not.
Today (Friday), I wasn't.
It's taking some time to get adjusted to it."
Despite having a great career at Princeton, Harrison was not selected in
the major league draft, but he will again be eligible after his junior year at
Cincinnati. Like most college players, he's hoping
to get his shot at the "bigs," and his family seems to be almost making draft
parties a family tradition. "My
older brother played at UK from '99 to 2001. Then he got drafted by Tampa Bay, but he's been with a few different
teams. Now he's with the Florida Marlins in spring training. He's
been hurt so I don't know where he'll end up." Josh also has a cousin that was
drafted. "My cousin played at
UK last year and got drafted by the
White Sox." Josh hopes he's next in
line. "I like to hope so, but only
time will tell. I'm just going to
keep working hard, and if it happens, it happens."
Setting personal goals is not a part of Harrison's game plan. "I always want to do good because I know
if I do well, it helps the team.
I'd like to improve on every stat from last year because I know it will
only help our team in the long run."
In November, Coach Cleary signed a player that Josh knows very well,
Chris Dixon. Josh and Chris were
keystone combination teammates at Princeton High
As previously mentioned, Josh played primarily shortstop at Princeton, and Chris was his second baseman when the
Vikings went to the state semifinals in 2005. Josh talked about his old buddy. "He brings a lot to the table. He's a pretty athletic guy. He'll probably do the same as I did my
freshman year and play a lot of positions.
He's a speedy guy and a nice kid."
Harrison's speed and
consistent contact at the plate put pressure on the oppositions' defenses. Last season, Josh had a strikeout for
every 12 at bats. This year it has
been even better with one whiff for every 14 to 15 at bats. Josh explained his attitude at the
plate. "I always want to swing at
the pitch I want. Most of the time
strikeouts come from chasing a pitcher's pitch. If I see a pitch I can hit, I try to put
a good swing on it. If I get out, I
Young players winning numerous accolades can lead to disastrous egos, but
that's definitely not the case with Josh.
"I'm not focused on the awards.
I'm focused on winning games.
You can't win awards if the team doesn't win. Sure, I got some personal
accomplishments, but it was with the help of my teammates."
The Bearcats return to action Saturday at 4 o'clock against Chicago State and conclude the series on Sunday at
1 o'clock. For all Bearcat baseball
stats and further coverage, visit gobearcats.com where Shawn Sell has everything
you could possibly want to know about Bearcat baseball.
Also, later this week, Bearcat Insider will have a story
about the four high school baseball players UC signed in November.