Mitch Harris teach the finer points of bunting during a 2009 clinic in Panama City, while Harris was taking part in the U.S. Southern Command Partnership Baseball Tour. Harris, a 13th-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 after playing at the Naval Academy, hopes the Navy will let him play in the Cardinals' system this season. (Navy)
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Different paths for Army, Navy NFL draftees (June 13, 2008)
A Naval Academy graduate who for two years has sought the service's OK to fulfill his baseball dreams is joining St. Louis Cardinals farmhands in late March.
Lt. j.g. Mitch Harris, a 13th-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008, said Sunday night that he will join spring training on March 23 in Jupiter, Fla.
A two-month window between deployments — and the OK from his commanding officer and a ship captain — has made it possible for the 6-foot-3, 225-pound right-handed pitcher to attend. Harris served as training officer aboard the frigate Carr last year.
The ship's blessing comes while Harris awaits the Navy's full OK. At the least, the upcoming trip to Jupiter is a start for a pitcher who, according to Baseball America, would have been about a fifth-round draft pick in 2008 if not for his five-year military commitment.
"I'm extremely hopeful" for Navy approval, Harris said. "I'm hoping they [Navy officials] see this as a good thing both for the Navy and the Cardinals."
Said Cardinals farm director John Vuch: "It's too early to say whether he'd be completely free to play for the entire season. That will be up to the Navy to decide."
Since summer 2010, Harris has submitted two packages seeking approval. His proposals have included this nugget: He would gladly take on additional duties such as speaking to ROTC students in high schools and colleges in and around cities of Cardinals' minor-league clubs.
Harris broke the news Sunday night https://twitter.com/Cardinals15">on his Twitter account.
While he was playing at Navy, a consensus developed among scouts that Harris was the Patriot League's top prospect in 2007 and 2008.
Baseball America's 2008 pre-draft scouting report described Harris as consistently throwing a low-90s fastball and that he has plus command of three pitches: fastball, slider and change-up.
Harris said he has stayed in shape by working out and eating healthy. He also has practiced in recent weeks at Old Dominion University, keeping his arm active.
"This is my dream and time is ticking," Harris said. "But I want to make sure both sides are happy with it."