|Harris promotes Robinson connection|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 11 June 2007 11:49|
Harris scored the only run for the Chicago White Sox against Houston in Game 4 of the 2005 World Series, completing a four-game sweep. He was celebrated with Willie Harris Day in Cairo, a small town in southwest Georgia that also was Robinson's birthplace.
Other than Robinson, Harris is the only Cairo native to make the major leagues.
``I'm the only one who can say that,'' Harris said.
The only the only U.S.-born black player on Atlanta's roster, Cairo has played in 404 major league games in seven seasons with Baltimore, the Chicago White Sox, Boston and Atlanta, which signed him to a minor league contract in December.
Called up from Triple-A Richmond on April 29 when Ryan Langerhans was traded to Oakland, Harris is hitting .398 with 20 runs in 93 at-bats as the left-handed hitting member of a left-field platoon with Matt Diaz. He stole his eighth base Sunday night and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in a 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs.
``He knows how to play the game,'' Braves center fielder Andruw Jones said. ``Since Willie Harris has been here he's been getting the job done. That's what we need.''
Harris was a senior at Cairo High School when the school's baseball field was named for Robinson. Markers at the city limits proclaim Cairo as the proud home of Robinson and Teresa Edwards, the former University of Georgia star and the only U.S. five-time Olympian in men's or women's basketball. Harris is Edwards' second cousin.
Harris came up as a second baseman but, like Robinson, can play almost every position. Also like Robinson, Harris makes the most of his speed with his aggressive style.
The 28-year-old was listed as a second baseman in spring training but played other infield spots and every outfield position as he appeared to be trying to earn a possible utility role. Now Harris is a regular starter in the outfield, though he continues to take infield grounders in batting practice.
Harris, who often hits second, can create runs, and that's been especially important as Chipper Jones has been out with sore wrists most of the last month.
``You can't always rely on the big guys to get the job done,'' Andruw Jones said. ``Every time he gets a chance he's doing it. That's why we've got some wins.''
Harris has hits in 18 of his 22 starts. He hit .391 in May - eighth-best in the majors - and scored three runs Saturday as the Braves stopped a four-game losing streak.
``Willie has been tremendous ever since he's come up,'' manager Bobby Cox said. ``He's always in the middle of something. He's hitting huge.''
Harris hit only .156 in 45 at-bats with Boston last season. and signed with Atlanta as a minor league free agent in December. Even when he didn't make the Braves' opening day roster, Harris remained confident, saying ``Somehow it will happen; I just have to be patient.''
Now, back in his home state, the Cairo connection is giving Harris a chance to spread the word about Robinson.
``I don't remember when I first learned that he was from Cairo, but I know a lot of people still don't know,'' Harris said, adding that baseball's annual April 15 celebration of the anniversary Robinson broke the color barrier will bring more attention to his hometown.
``More people are going to start knowing because baseball is doing a great job with it,'' Harris said. ``It won't be long before plenty of young African-Americans are going to know exactly who Jackie Robinson was.''
In Cairo, Highway 93 has been named Jackie Robinson Parkway. Harris has his own street, the one he grew up on, but no marker on the entrance to the city limits - at least not yet.
``I'll be there one day,'' he said.