Harris excited to be back with Pirates|Was an 8th round pick of the Orioles last year

Published 7:27 pm Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE — Devin Harris sat at a table and politely answered an assortment of questions from the media Wednesday afternoon.
After being selected in the 8th round of the Major League Baseball Draft last year, not many expected Harris to be in an East Carolina uniform this year. But the strapping 6-4, 221-pound junior, a preseason first-team All-Conference USA selection, opted to return to the Pirates.
It wasn’t an easy decision.
“It was difficult,” Harris said. “As a kid one of your biggest dreams is to play professional baseball and to play in the Major League. To have that opportunity sitting right there in front of you, it was difficult (to turn down), but this is an amazing place to play.
“There’s a good group of guys coming back, like Kyle (Roller) who is coming off a great summer, and obviously there are a lot of freshmen that are coming in that are expected to play big roles with the guys that we lost last year.”
Harris said the negotiating process with the Orioles organization was a grueling one.
“It definitely takes a toll,” Harris said. “You get a phone call from your scout and each phone call could change your life. It’s kind of frustrating to deal with, but every player goes through it. There might be 1,500 picks in the draft so everyone is having to go through it.
“It’s a good problem to have, you could say.”
ECU coach Billy Godwin is thrilled to have Harris back.
“He went in the 8th round and if you would have asked me the day after the draft (if) would be back in an East Carolina uniform, I probably would have said, ‘no,’ but there some things that he wanted and he wanted to accomplish,” Godwin said. “I think things drug out a little longer than he wanted it to and he was perfectly content being back at school.”
While he would like to have a solid season personally, the ECU outfielder is now on a mission to help the Pirates reach the College World Series.
“There were some personal goals that I wanted to achieve, but it’s also important for me to be on that team that really helps the school get to its first Omaha (College World Series) appearance,” Harris said. “I know the team has never been there and that would be a great way to leave East Carolina.”
Harris had a big year last year for the Pirates. He hit .344 with 14 home runs, 48 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.
He’s hoping for another solid season so he can get drafted even higher this year, but said it’s too early to speculate on where he might go.
“There were some things that I really wanted to work on coming back this year,” Harris said. “I had some time during the offseason to really attack those weaknesses that I felt I had in my game. I felt that has made me a better player and, hopefully, that will translate into the draft process.
“I have some personal goals, but the personal goals come along with the team doing well. As long as the team does well, the personal goals are going to come.”
While Harris admitted that there could be some pressure to perform well, he is taking a positive approach to the upcoming season.
“That’s in the back of my mind,” Harris said. “You just have to forget about those things and go out and play the way you’re capable of playing; not go out there and play for the scouts, but just play for yourself and your teammates.”
Harris had a couple key areas he worked on during the offseason.
“I wanted to work on my swing, cutting down on my strikeouts,” Harris said. “I strike out more than I’d like to. Defense is a key thing I’d like to focus on, and I’d also like to focus on base running. I’ve been blessed with good speed, something that a lot of people with power don’t have, and I’d like to be able to embrace that a little bit more.”
Harris and the rest of the Pirates begin the season Feb. 19 at home against No. 3 Virginia.
“I’m definitely ready to get going,” Harris said. “We start team practice this Friday and it’s been a long time since we finished up with Carolina. I think everybody is ready to get started.”