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Daily Journal
     June 12, 2020      #76-164 KDJ

Campus catch up: Harris' peculiar path not done

By Cody Smith

Beecher native Josh Harris’ story of becoming a Division I student-athlete is unlike anything most college baseball fans have seen.

After serving four years in the Marine Corps from ages 18-22, Harris returned home to Beecher in 2015. From there, he began his pursuit of becoming a professional baseball player by heading to Kankakee Community College, where he went 2-1 on the bump with a 3.72 ERA as a left-handed pitcher.

During his time at KCC, Harris threw about 90 to 93 MPH from the left side, which eventually drew interest from the Los Angeles Dodgers. That interest wasn’t quite enough for a draft selection, so Harris took the University of Illinois up on an offer to pitch for the orange and blue.

Being that he was already 24 when he decided to transfer, Harris had no idea how his new team would react to having an older player on the roster. Thankfully for Harris, they ended up treating him like one of their own.

“I’m going to miss the brotherhood at Illinois,” Harris said. “I thought I was going to be treated like an outcast because I was older than everybody, but I got there, and everybody welcomed me with open arms and treated me as one of the younger guys.”

Last season, Harris tossed a total of 16 innings in his first season for the Illini. He finished the season 4-2 with a 5.06 ERA and 24 strikeouts. His strong season helped make it a year he would never forget, particularly a moment of revenge that came during the campaign.

“My favorite moment of my college career came in my first year at Illinois when I came in in the fifth inning against Coastal Carolina,” Harris said. “I came in with bases loaded, no outs and shut them down.

“It was my revenge for them taking a pretty unprofessional approach when they were recruiting me during my time at KCC.”

Unfortunately, Harris’ baseball career took a turn for the worst after his sophomore campaign. Earlier this season, before everything got canceled because of the coronavirus, Harris broke his hand and had to get surgery. It kept him from seeing the bump at all during this year’s shortened season.

Now, still recovering from surgery, Harris has taken his time off by rehabilitating for one last push to the big leagues.

“I’ve basically just been working out; I wasn’t able to lift for the first couple of stages of quarantine, so I was riding a stationary bike for like 20 miles a day,” Harris said. “And then, I just started hitting the gym a couple days ago because the gym in Beecher just opened up.”

Harris plans to return to the Beecher Muskies once again, a local amateur team where his post-service push began.

“If I don’t get attention playing with the Muskies this summer, then my career is pretty much done,” Harris said.

If things don’t go according to Harris’ plan, he will look to enter law enforcement.

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