Washington Township High School product Shea Harris ready for another year with Riversharks
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 12:34 AM Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 12:37 AM
CAMDEN — Shea Harris got his start in professional baseball by talking his way into a tryout after an Atlantic City Surf game in 2007.
Five years later, he’s still hanging on as the Washington Township High School product is set to begin his third season with the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League and sixth overall.
“I went to an Atlantic City Surf game just to see what it was about and saw I was better than the (catcher) they had and I kind of made my own break,” said Harris, who played his college ball at James Madison, Lewisburg Junior College and Gardner-Webb. “I called (the manager) over after the game and told him I’m better than the guy you got, let me work out for you tomorrow.’
“I worked out for him, signed my contract that day and was starting that night. I’m still plugging away and enjoying the game for what it has to offer.”
Harris will likely be the third catcher for the Riversharks this year. He is a .154 career hitter in the minor leagues but can handle a staff and threw out 12 baserunners in 56 games two years ago.
The 27-year-old is expected to start the season behind Alvin Colin and Raul Padron, but with a week to go before the opener neither of the top two catchers had arrived in the country.
“(Harris) is a well-below-average hitter, but he catches fine, receives fine, blocks balls and gives a good effort every day,” said Riversharks manager Jeff Scott. “He’s our third-string catcher, but right now he’s a first-string catcher and getting closer to being a first-string catcher on Opening Day. He played for us a lot two years ago because of some injuries and we won games with him behind the plate.”
Harris said he is working on his offense, but admitted his defense is his calling card.
“A guy like (the Phillies’) Carlos Ruiz gets it done and wins games behind the plate and that’s what I take pride in, winning games, working with the staff and trying to make everybody around me better,” said Harris. “The year the Phillies won the World Series, Carlos didn’t hit but .220. The past couple years I focused on getting the stick together, but I know the defense is going to be there. I’m here to catch and win ballgames.”
This is Harris’ fourth year in the Atlantic League as he played with the Bridgeport Bluefish in 2008, where he also worked with Scott.
“Everybody loves playing at home and it’s good being able to be with my family,” said Harris. “I’m used to the area. It’s very convenient.
“Throughout the years, I’ve played in 28 states and Canada. If you’re going to play somewhere it makes it easier to be home, and I’ve been working with Jeff Scott since I was in Bridgeport and he’s a great baseball guy, great guy to be around, so that’s another reason I’m here.”
Last year, Harris was with the Riversharks all season but only saw action in 11 games, backing up former major-league catcher Toby Hall. While hoping to play more, Harris took the opportunity to learn from a player who had competed at the highest level.
“Experience outweighed me a little bit,” said Harris. “I didn’t get to be on the field as much, but that’s the breaks. You keep plugging away and good things will happen.
“I spent as much time with Toby as I could. There’s no substitute for being around a guy like that every day, learning how to handle yourself. I gained that much more knowledge and you excel yourself having a guy like that to talk to.”
Scott admits the Atlantic League is a stepping stone for players to move on to affiliated ball, and noted it isn’t good practice to sign a player who doesn’t have that ability to play at another level. But while Harris’ ceiling might not be as high as others, his defense and intangibles make him a valuable member of the team.
“Shea’s never going to play in the big leagues or get signed by an organization, but he plays for the right reasons and he’s the one out of 100 that qualifies,” said Scott.
Harris is just looking for an opportunity to keep playing and feels his chances of seeing action are better this year with Hall gone.
“I’m going to play as long as I can, as long as I keep progressing and stay healthy, whatever happens happens,” said Harris, who gives baseball lessons in the offseason. “When I’m done playing, I’d like to coach college ball or even the big-time, but wherever the game takes me I’m just going to let it ride.
“You never know what can happen in this game. Maybe a guy gets hurt and one guy in the bleachers likes me and it’s on from there. But you have to be on the field to get that opportunity, and I’m hoping to play more.”
Contact Bill Evans at 856-845-9478 or firstname.lastname@example.org