SAN DIEGO, Calif – Before last night’s thrilling game with Puerto Rico (game story here), we spoke to Team USA’s Josh Harrison. J-Hay, starting at second base that night, was a 2014 NL All-Star with the Pittsburgh Pirates and hit .283 in 2016. On a loaded United States’ team, he has been sharing time at second base with Ian Kinsler and David Murphy while serving as a player who could back up any position in case of emergency.
Gabriel Fidler: I know that you were a last-minute add, though you expected you might be here. Just how excited are you to have that USA on your chest?
Josh Harrison: It’s exciting man, any chance you get to represent your country, it’s an opportunity that every kid dreams of. When it first started, I was just starting college and I kept up with the Classic so to be here 10-11 years, to be representing my country is something that’s exciting. When I got the opportunity it was something I didn’t want to pass.
GF: Thinking back to that first Classic still in college and a way from that possibility, how do you think the feeling in college and high school ages guys has changed from then to now about what the Classic is?
JH: I think the energy shows you that it’s something that people want to be a part of. I wasn’t one of the guys coming out of high school or college that got to play for Team USA growing up. I know a lot of guys that were, but I mean, ultimate, being here on the biggest stage, this is almost like the Olympics for baseball-you get to represent your country for baseball. I wouldn’t rather be doing it when any other guys than what I’m doing it with right now.
GF: If we’re looking down the road maybe two Classics [from now] how do you think this Classic will have changed further the way people are looking at it?
JH: I think each we have it, it has the potential to be better. Just like anything, you learn from previous years. This my first time physically experiencing it, and just the energy in all the stadiums for each team it almost gives you a playoff atmosphere.
GF: The USA fans have been really good so far, haven’t they?
JH: They have. They’ve showed up and showed out. They’ve pulled us through quite a few games. We’ve had some late inning comebacks and it’s a testament of our team. We’ve got great guys, both pitchers and position players, and when you got the fans behind you, it makes it that much more fun.
GF: Glad to hear you say that the fans have kind of pulled you throw it, because I was down in Jalisco last round, and I’ve noticed the fans have played a huge role in this tournament.
JH: Oh yeah, for sure. It’s no different than during the regular season where our fans pull us through, but this is a little different because we’re playing for Team USA and it’s a country thing. The country puts its differences aside and it’s a little more special sometimes when you get out there and it’s like everyone forgets their affiliate—we’re playing for one thing, and that’s this country.
GF: Do you think actually that given the last six months in US politics that this tournament might be serving a role bigger than baseball?
JH: To be honest, I don’t really get into politics, but it could. It is nice to see people cheer together and cheer for the U.S.
GF: And then finally, for British kids who are learning how to play the game, what’s your advice if they want to join you in the World Baseball Classic in 10-12 years from now?
JH: For one thing, it’s a lot of hard work. But, the most important thing is to have fun. This game doesn’t last forever. That’s is one thing I don’t do is take this game for granted. I enjoy it. I enjoy every second of it, because you don’t know when your last day’s going to be.
Photo credit, Bambino Sedano (@bambino_sedano).