Monday, February 28, 2011

Willie Harris moves on

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Willie Harris emerged from the third-base dugout at DigitalDomain Park this morning with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step. Just like the guy Nationals fans came to know over the last three years.

Except for the Mets uniform he was wearing.

"I miss my guys," said Harris, who signed a minor-league deal with New York over the winter. "I miss being over here with these guys, but unfortunately you have to move on. When one door closes, another door opens. I'm looking forward to this opportunity I have in New York and plan on making the best of it."

Harris hoped to return to Washington after his contract expired at the end of the season. His contact with the Nationals, though, was minimal and he gave up hope when he heard through the grapevine they were more interested in adding right-handed bats off the bench. (They wound up signing Jerry Hairston to fill Harris' super-utility role.)

Coming off a down year in which he hit .183 with 10 homers and 32 RBI in 132 games, Harris had to settle for a minor-league deal with the Mets, though all signs point to him making the Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder.

"It's a tough pill for anyone to swallow," the 32-year-old said. "But when you hit .183, that's pretty much what you're looking at. I thought I had a pretty good year as far as production off the bench. But overall, they look at your batting average. I had to do what I had to do."

Harris said he's made some physical and mental changes to his game that he believes will pay dividends this season with his new club. He remains close to many of his former teammates and went to dinner with two of them (Ian Desmond and J.D. Martin) last week in Viera.

On the way home, Harris' car was rear-ended by a driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel. The incident became major news in New York, even though Harris wasn't injured and wasn't to blame at all.

"I'm fine," he said. "The car is jacked up, but I'm cool."

There is some irony, of course, in Harris signing with a Mets team he frequently beat with late-game heroics. MASN even ran a commercial a couple years ago in which a fan declared that "the Mets must hate Willie Harris."

Now that he's playing for the team that once hated him, is he motivated to stick a few daggers in the Nationals' hearts?

"I love all those guys, man," he said. "It's a part of the game when you have to move on. I still love those guys. Now I've got to try to beat them. ... No motivation to do it, but I want to win. I'm not trying to stick daggers or anything like that."


JaneB said...

I wish him all the best. I remember when it was exciting to see him come off the bench. And he made some of the all-time best Nats defensive catches, there is no question about it. I just hope he has especially GREAT luck when the Mets play the Phillies. That's all I'm saying.

sm13 said...

Willie Harris is a class act. He won several games for user with his bat and glove. I wish him good luck in NY and hope he beats up on the Phillies and not the Nats

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, well Harris was pretty pathetic with his bat in the late innings last year. And was one of the players who did not like being a backup and complained to Riggleman about lack of playing time ... he combined with Guzman, Marquis and Lannan's starts pretty much screwed any chance they had of doing anything last year.

natsfan1a said...

Add me to the list of those who wish Harris well (though my feelings won't be hurt if he saves his best for those games vs. the Phillies...or the Braves...or the Marlins. And it's also fine if he wants to take it easy during games vs. the Nats. Because it's a marathon, not a sprint and all that. So just keep a little Super Willie in reserve for them, if you get my drift...I'm just saying...). ;-)

natsfan1a said...

um, "them" being the other NL East teams...

kary said...

Anonymous @ 1:42: get your facts straight. Harris didn't complain to riggs. He understood his role off the bench.

Anonymous said...

kary said...
Anonymous @ 1:42: get your facts straight. Harris didn't complain to riggs. He understood his role off the bench.

Get your facts straight dude? Harris starting complaining early and often, first stating that he should be allowed to compete for the starting second baseman's job (his preferred position) and wondering the press why he wasn't given that opportunity! Numbnuts what do you think was behind Riggleman's constant euphemisms about "Getting Willie started". Then there's all that crap about his connections and good relationship with the Lerners ... sheesh talk about playing politics to keep Mike Morse on the bench!

If you think about one can see why AGonz was so put out given that he totally is the superior fielder to Guzman, Kennedy, and Harris AND his bat isn't any worst than their's were AND are. We note for the record that the Mets are making Harris a reserve outfielder, no mention of the infield for SuperWilly.

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