Harrison's hustle garners respect from fans, teammates

21 year-old keeps positive, plays hard even in difficult games

By Kellie Karbach, MiracleBaseball.com / Fort Myers Miracle | June 23, 2014 10:16 AM ET

A full season of Minor League Baseball contains 140 games, but one certain day in 2013 with the Cedar Rapids Kernels is rooted in Travis Harrison's memory. In a night full of frustrations, Harrison was mentally wiped out, lacking a hit and unable to muster the inspiration to run out a dribbling ground ball to the pitcher. His lack of hustle caused Kernels manager Jake Mauer to pull him from the game.

Flash forward to this year. Harrison now values himself as an athlete who plays hard regardless of a game's bleakness and his own tribulations. That day with the Kernels, Travis learned his most resonant lesson.

"That got to me," Harrison admitted. "Now, even if I hit a ground ball to the pitcher, I always try to go 100 percent. Not easy to do when you're 0-for-4 and just kind of want to sulk."

Whether he is in an 0-for-28 skid or making sparks dance off the bat, the now 21-year old always shelves his frustration and allows determination and grit to take the stage. He is sure to break up double plays with vigor or fling dirt from his cleats racing up the first baseline to out-run an infield grounder.

"I've always played with a lot of emotion and sometimes it comes out when it shouldn't," Harrison said. "I've learned since the game in Cedar Rapids to take my anger out running and hustling. I'm glad [Mauer] took me out that day. I definitely learned from that experience."

Harrison shouldered a heavy package of talents into the Twins organization upon his first round selection in the 2011 draft, notably his enthusiasm for the game. Out of high school, coaches and scouts had no doubt in his raw abilities. Travis even drew some early comparisons to Washington Nationals prodigy Bryce Harper.

At first, settling into the rhythm of professional gameplay was tricky for Harrison. He cited that focusing was not always easy.

"Toughest thing for me is playing so many games every day and trying to stay consistent," Harrison said. "You feel like you know what to do, how to hit and play. Back in high school, you played twice a week and had a whole week to prepare. I would say that's the most different thing aside from talent."

Consistency at the plate is a work in progress for Harrison. Now that he has his emotions under control, the streakiness weaving through his at-bats is the most important snag to address. Sometimes his bat connects with everything, as was the case when Travis rode a 15-game hitting streak spanning from May 9-25. Other times hits evade him, but despite being unable to pinpoint and correct the cause of his streakiness Harrison is always trying to produce regularly for his team.

"I don't know exactly what it is," Harrison said. "Especially in beginning of the season, the ball speeds up and you don't see breaking pitches as well. But I try to make contact in any way possible: sac fly, sneak a base hit, anything to get the ball moving."

Overall, Harrison's drive to contribute is evident in his hitting splits. He currently leads the Miracle roster and is fourth in the FSL with 19 doubles, supplementing that number with a .279 batting average, 31 RBI and a triple.

Harrison keeps a positive attitude despite the game-by-game shifts in his stats. He transferred this confident and flexible mindset while making the swap from third base to left field this season. Prior to Spring Training, Harrison received word that he would be tried out in left field, a position he manned only once in his two professional seasons leading up to 2014. Harrison was accustomed to third base but took the new position in stride. Ever since, Travis has been working hard to acclimate himself with the outfield turf.

"[Twins Minor League Field Coordinator] Joe Lepel called me up about a month before Spring Training and said 'Hey, we're going to work you a little in left.'" Harrison recalled. "Obviously since then it's been more than a little. Still, I don't mind where I play as long as I play."

While Harrison has an error sprinkled into his 55 games total at the position, overall his fielding has proven of good quality. He finds help from his coaches and from watching Major League outfielders in his own time in an attempt to understand a different dynamic from the infield.

For instance, Harrison finds himself able to think thoroughly about each play in the outfield. He moves around more, adjusting his position according to the placement of a fly ball or the mechanics of a batter's swing.

"The dynamic is definitely different," Harrison explained. "As with everywhere you play, communication is important. You have to be more careful of the other outfielders, though. You don't want to crash into anyone."

Even in unfamiliar terrain, Travis' positive outlook and work ethic shine through. All of his trials and successes have amalgamated into one collective learning experience.

"I feel more and more comfortable every day," he said. For Travis, the future is only looking up.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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