7/14/2014 7:40 P.M. ET
Harrison's journey leads him to All-Star Game
Pirates utility man enjoys success after jumping between Majors and Minors
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Josh Harrison has heard enough messages from his manager that he's headed somewhere, usually the Minor Leagues. The Pirates utility man went back and forth from Pittsburgh to Triple-A Indianapolis four times last year, and twice in 2011.
It's a long way from Indianapolis to Minneapolis, even if the map suggests otherwise. He didn't realize how close he was to bridging the distance when Bucs manager Clint Hurdle called a pregame meeting last week just before the All-Star Game selections were being announced.
"We were in a meeting on Sunday before the teams were announced," Harrison recalled, "and Clint Hurdle said, 'I've got three messages today. The first one is that Andrew McCutchen is going to be an All-Star again.' We clapped, and he made it seem like the next two [messages] were going to be something different.
"That's when he said, 'And [NL All-Star manager] Mike Matheny had to make a decision, and he chose two more of our guys.' And that's when me and Tony Watson both found out, in the first meeting. Guys had been saying it to us, but until you know it's coming, you don't really think too much of it."
That's when it hit Harrison. All the trips back and forth, to and from the big club, all the frustrations of trying to find a full-time role, he saw the individual reward.
"I never really let anything get on me too much," Harrison said. "I've always been a type that's always pushed through whatever and persevered. I knew I could play this game if just given the opportunity. Talking with my friends, my wife, my brother, my uncle [John Shelby], who coaches in the big leagues, who's always telling me to stay ready because it's a funny game. Anything can happen at the blink of an eye.
"I knew I could play the game. I just waited for an opportunity. It came and I just kept doing what I've always done."
Harrison did well enough this year to not only get a full-time role, but he also earned an All-Star selection. And as he looked around the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Monday at the players around him, not to mention the swarm of reporters and cameras, everything soaked in.
"It's kind of hard to explain, because you definitely know people are going to be here and [see reporters] walk up and down," Harrison said. "But I think the most eye-opening is to actually experience it. You're going to walk down the street and people are going to know it. You're going to be eating and people are going to look through the window. You hear those things, but until you actually experience that, that's the most eye-opening thing."
Harrison didn't have that kind of crowd. He definitely had a smile. So did his teammates.
"He's a guy who, in his career up here, hasn't had the chance that he's been given now this year," McCutchen said. "From that standpoint, to me, it's one of the toughest things to do, to be up and down, up and down, Triple-A, big leagues, Triple-A, big leagues, starting the season in Triple-A, then starting a season in the big leagues. He didn't do well on top of it, then playing in left, playing in right, playing third, playing second, shortstop.
"I mean, it's a mouthful just saying it. For him to do all of that and do it well, he's my MVP if you ask me. It's amazing for him to be where he's at."
Harrison has played five different positions in Pittsburgh this season -- 26 games in right field, 19 at third base, another 15 in left, 14 at second and two at short. There is no home position for Matheny to peg for Harrison if he makes an appearance on Tuesday night at Target Field.
That versatility seemingly increases Harrison's chances of playing at some point. It does not increase his sense of preparation. Harrison isn't going to be picky.
"I'm ready to roll wherever they put me," he said. "I bring all my gloves for a reason. I know I can go in at one position, but that doesn't mean I'll end there. So, I'm ready."
When asked if he has a preference, Harrison smiled.
"Getting in is a preference," he said.