From the Navy to the majors
During his five years with the U.S. Navy, no matter what difficulties Lt. Mitch Harris faced at sea, he never surrendered his dream of pitching in the major leagues. The right-hander had been selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round of the June 2008 amateur draft out of the United States Naval Academy but had to forgo baseball to serve his military commitment. Through three deployments, including two tours of the Persian Gulf, a diplomatic mission to Russia and a drug operation in South America, Harris kept throwing -- and hoping. Some days at sea, especially when he hadn’t talked to family or friends back home in the U.S. in weeks, his big-league dreams seemed like a mirage. "On days like that, you just sit around with a lot of time to think," said Harris, 29. "You just wonder: Is this ever going to get better?" Harris, who had fallen in love with baseball as soon as he started playing the sport when he was 4, was lightly recruited in high school. But a chance meeting with a U.S. Naval Academy coach visiting South Point High in Belmont, North Carolina, ultimately led Harris to the military academy in Annapolis, Maryland.