Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pirates' Josh Harrison became a super-utilityman this season..
Bonita Harrison knew her son was good enough to play Tee-ball, even at age 3.
If he could just get a shot, she thought.
A youth baseball league in Cincinnati balked at his age -- Josh Harrison was two years younger than the other boys. He was small, a liability on the roster.
But a mother's will was not so easily broken.
So Bonita Harrison started her own team. And later that year the "T-Bone All-Stars" -- who were in reality a band of misfit kids dismissed for their size, or lack of ability, or some other perceived deficiency -- suited up for coach Harrison and alongside her plucky tyke Josh.
"It's one of those things you do as a mother to keep your baby quiet. You don't give him a bottle, you give him a bat and a ball," Bonita Harrison said. "You couldn't play Tee-ball until 5. But he wanted to play so bad."
Harrison played every position that season, and eventually fended off multiple offers from teams that had turned him away.
Nearly a quarter-century later, at 5 feet 8 and batting .318 for the Pirates, Harrison is still forcing his way onto the baseball diamond. He repeatedly is trumping his own performance in a dream season that started with a simple, serendipitous shot, and might just end with a National League batting title.
"My whole life I've been looked at as a guy who's undersized," Harrison said. "I'm always asked if I do things to prove people wrong. Honestly, I tell them, I don't do it for them. I just prove myself right. Everything I do is me proving to myself that's why I believed in myself the whole time."
Harrison was a career .250 utility player and considered a bench staple with the Pirates before injuries in the infield and outfield earned him repeated days in the lineup.
His defense was always reliable, but then his bat started to soar, leading him to the top of the batting order.
He has taken a turn playing right field, left field, second base, shortstop, and eventually landed permanently at third base.
He has been the unlikely champion of two wild, highlight-reel rundowns, was named an All-Star as a super-utility player, and was tied with Justin Morneau of Colorado for the NL batting title race going into today.
"It's not like something that happened to him overnight. It's been a very long part of his life," said teammate Andrew McCutchen, also in the chase for the batting title (.310). "To the average player, he is undersized. He's not the type of guy you picture in your head when you see the numbers that he has. But he's going out there and playing with the confidence as if he was 6-5. I just love to see it."
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