May 21, 2022

Phillies hope Josh Harrison and the Bible verse that guides him

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Josh Harrison scrolled through the Bible app on his phone before his freshman year of college, passing the time before the start of another baseball season.

Then a 20-year-old infielder at his hometown, the University of Cincinnati, Harrison had spent the summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League. And his play there after two strong seasons in Cincinnati made it all but certain that Harrison would hear his name called the following June in the Major League Baseball draft.

So it was easy for Harrison to feel good about himself scrolling through his phone. But then something caught his attention.

“1 Peter 5:6,” Harrison said. “It speaks of being humble. It says, ‘Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. Therefore, he might raise you up in due time.’ It was definitely something I needed.

Harrison relied on that stint when his junior season started in a vicious slump, pushing him to keep going. He used it when he moved up in the minor leagues, and he had it sewn onto his glove when he made his debut in 2011 for the Pirates.

Harrison played in two All-Star Games and added the Bible passage to his autograph, remembering the importance of humility when he was at the top. Now the move is in Clearwater on the bracelets Harrison is wearing this spring as he tries to maintain his career by securing one of the last spots on the Phillies’ roster.

“It’s just a constant reminder for me. When things are good and even when things are bad, stay humble no matter what,” Harrison said. “I say it’s so much more than baseball. It helps me in baseball, but also in life. Marriage, children, siblings, family, friends. If you are not humble, he will come back for you. It’s with anything, thinking you have everything.

Harrison was one of seven veterans the Phillies signed this winter in minor league deals to compete in camp for the team’s final two spots on the bench. Like Harrison, most of the other veterans have a track record of success. Phil Gosselin was the team’s best pinch hitter last season. Logan Forsythe started six of seven World Series games in 2017 with the Dodgers. Neil Walker played 11 major league seasons. And like Harrison, the other veterans are trying to prove this spring that they still have something left.

Harrison was an All-Star in 2017 with Pittsburgh, but injuries have limited him to 133 games over the past two seasons. He’s healthy now and can play almost any position, providing the versatility the Phillies would like to have on a five-man bench that already includes two outfielders and a backup receiver.

“Looking at the roster lineup, I know that being healthy, I can help,” Harrison said. “I am here in good health. It is a veteran clubhouse. A new manager. The guys want to win. They’re in a position to win, and I feel like I can definitely be a part of that in any way I can.”

The Tigers signed him before last season to be their starting second baseman, but Harrison tore a hamstring in May. The injury was expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks, but he was still feeling unwell eight weeks later in August when he played a week of minor league rehab games. The Tigers released him soon after and Harrison began aiming for 2020.

“I couldn’t do myself any injustice. I’ve already played injured enough. So the timing for me was actually perfect,” Harrison said. “When I got home in August I kept training and doing a lot of physical therapy to correct whatever I could. I was able to have a normal offseason. I was back on track. .

“It was a blessing in disguise. Because if that injury had happened two months later, I would still be trying to figure out how to correct myself in the middle of spring training as opposed to what it is now.”

Harrison was 26 when he made his first All-Star Game, six years after finding this Bible verse. He helped the Pirates reach the playoffs three straight years and hit .290 with a .759 OPS between 2014 and 2017. The Pirates signed him in 2015 to a four-year contract as Harrison was one of the young baseball stars. But by the end of the deal, the wounds had started to seep in. Baseball humbled him.

“Humility is something that can always be used, especially in doing what we do,” Harrison said. “We’re put on a pedestal – okay, it’s a lot of hard work and stuff we’ve done – but I know the opportunity I’ve been given is far greater than anything I’ve ever had. I did. It’s just a constant reminder for me. When things are good and even when things are bad, stay humble through it all.

He told his agent last August after the Tigers released him that he would only play the rest of this season for a team that aspires to the playoffs. Otherwise, he prefers to rest for the last two months of the season and allow his body to heal. That offer didn’t come, so Harrison stayed home in Ohio — not far from where he scrolled his phone to pass the time — and prepared for another season. He signed with the Phillies in November and came to Clearwater last month. Not only was he humble, but he was also healthy.

“I love this game, I love playing it and that’s what I want to do. But that doesn’t define me,” Harrison said. a brother in those times and get well at the same time. I was able to arrive in spring feeling healthy for the first time in a few years. Everything you take, everything you go through, you can learn from.