No. 1 pick Harris kicking into new gear at first spring camp
By: Braydon Holmyard
DUNEDIN, Fla. – After an early-morning bullpen session and plenty of fielding drills, Jonathan Harris reflected on how the last three years of college helped him evolve into a pitcher worthy of a Toronto Blue Jays first-round pick.
Harris enters his first minor-league camp having taken the long road towards his professional baseball career.
Wise beyond his years, the Florissant, Mo., native knew he was not ready when the Blue Jays initially drafted him in the 33rd round in 2012.
“I was young coming out of high school. I was six feet tall, 155 pounds and I came out of Missouri State 6-foot-4, 190,” Harris said. “College is what I wanted to do, I wanted to go get my degree, learn to live on my own, grow up a little bit, and it paid off in the long run.”
Harris flourished playing close to home in the Missouri State University program. He was awarded Pitcher of the Year as the anchor of a Bears rotation that won a team-record 49 games and a Missouri Valley Conference championship.
His journey to the pro ball came to fruition when he got some innings under his belt with the Class-A Vancouver Canadians towards the end of last season, and admitted that moving up from the college level was a big adjustment.
“It was a huge turnaround. I figured out the hard way these guys can hit,” Harris said. “The tools I had at school didn’t work quite as well as I had hoped going in here.”
With a new season approaching, Harris acknowledged he is ready to carry his success at MSU and continue to fine tune things.
“Right now I’m still using the tools that I have, but in a different way to try and improve my game. Trying to make pitching a little easier, get outs a little easier, instead of having those long, drawn out innings.”
Just as he did at Missouri State, Harris believes his work ethic and natural ability will help him find his place in the Blue Jays organization.
“Now it’s time to kick into another gear and put twice as much work in,” he said, “because you’re trying to beat out 175 different pitchers for a job instead of 10 or 12 in college.”