June 10, 2010
Little Guys, Big Impact
Keith Werman of Virginia
Rico Noel of Coastal Carolina
Nathan Kilcrease of Alabama
Former Walk-On Harris Shines
By Jimmy Jones
Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com
(photos by Jimmy Jones)
Tenn. - He is not the tallest or the strongest athlete on
the team, he probably ranks in the bottom half of the roster on
the speed scale and he was not a heralded or highly-sought
recruit out of high school despite earning all-state honors in
But fifth-year senior Brian Harris (right) will leave
giant-sized footprints on the Vanderbilt Commodores baseball
program after he laces up the cleats for the final time. After
all, the Commodores can thank the shortstop for saving their
season and sending them to a Super Regional showdown with
Florida State with two splendid plays in the final two innings
against Louisville in the do-or-die Regional final.
At 5-8, 160 pounds, Harris didn't receive much attention from
Division I recruiters. In fact, it appeared that his best option
was to play at a junior college until he decided that he would
take a chance as a walk-on at Vanderbilt, a school that had just
recruited a couple of the best classes in the nation, a school
that eventually yielded professional players such as Dominic de
la Osa, David Price, Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty, Jonathan
White and Casey Weathers.
It was a typically ambitious undertaking for the Montgomery Bell
Academy graduate, and it didn't take the Commodores' staff long
to make the decision to give the young man the opportunity of a
That call turned out to be one of the best that either side has
ever made, though it took some time for the always confident
youngster to get on the field.
known by his teammates as "Dirty Harry," red-shirted his
freshman year and only saw limited time the next two seasons due
to the extremely talented roster. He wasn't playing much, but
his work ethic was beyond reproach.
"I just needed to prove I belong," Harris said. "Anytime you are
in that walk-on situation, you kind of want to prove that you
think you can play with these guys and compete in the SEC. The
goal that you constantly have as a younger player, especially as
a walk-on, is to prove you can compete."
The hard work paid dividends in his junior year when he earned
first-team All-SEC honors and was a member of the All-SEC
Harris flourished in the leadoff role, as he led the team in
runs with 69, hit .299, recorded 21 doubles and perhaps most
impressively, knocked in 45 runs for the season. His hard-nosed
style of play dictates that he take away as much of the strike
zone as possible from the opposing pitcher with a stance that
places him right on top of the plate, making it no coincidence
that he led the SEC in being hit by a pitch on 21 occasions in
64 games in 2009.
That pattern continued this season: Harris set the NCAA
single-season record by being hit 36 times in 2010.
Add that number to his 63 hits and 54 walks and Harris reached
base an incredible 153 times out of 305 plate appearances (.498)
"He's as good of a leadoff hitter as we've had here in terms of
numbers and in terms of getting on base," Vanderbilt coach Tim
Corbin said. "He just takes on a leadership role of a leadoff
hitter as it should be played out.
"You get very few days when he doesn't do well," Corbin said.
"He is very consistent in what he does. He brings the same
approach to the ballpark every day. He has a very good energy
for the game every day. We lean on him hard. I just think he has
been a sponge the last few years where he has picked up on the
opponent and understands what it takes to be successful in this
only has Harris proved his worth as a hitter, but he also has
been the anchor at shortstop for the Commodores defensively.
That was never more evident than in the regional tournament in
Louisville with all the marbles on the table for the Commodores.
With Sonny Gray on the mound in the eighth inning of the
championship game and runners at first and third with two outs,
Louisville All-American Phil Wunderlich hit a sharp bouncer that
Gray jumped and deflected. For an agonizing moment the ball
appeared to be headed for no-man's land to score the go-ahead
run for the Cardinals, but "Dirty Harry" had not quit on the
play. He glided to the ball, scooped it up and threw the runner
out by a half step to end the rally as the sellout crowd sat in
He was at it again with the game again on the line in the ninth
when his leaping catch of a scorching liner off the bat of
Andrew Clark with runners at second and third with the game tied
was not only spectacular, but it also may have saved the
It was the kind of stuff of which heroes are made. The kid that
nobody wanted out of high school has left no doubt in anybody's
Brian Harris not only belongs, he has raised the bar.