Harrington Paid His Dues to Become Slugger

College : : Story
Jim Ecker        
Published: Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Michael Harrington got about 25 at-bats during his freshman year at the College of Charleston, barely enough to crack a sweat, then got about 50 as a sophomore. Some guys might have gotten discouraged and quit, but not Harrington. He hit the weights, worked on his swing, got his chance as a junior and blossomed into one of the top sluggers in the country last year as a senior.

Instead of sulking as a freshman and sophomore, he grew more determined to succeed.

"I tried to look at it as a positive, to work on my game," he said.

Harrington hit 26 home runs last year as a senior, drove in 82 runs and became a third team All-American at the College of Charleston, prompting the Minnesota Twins to grab him in the 13th round of the 2008 draft. The Twins organization likes what it sees.

"He swings at good pitches," said Nelson Prada, his manager with the Beloit Snappers in the Class A Midwest League. "Not everybody has that, recognizing the pitches the way he does."

Harrington hit .266 with nine homers and 44 RBIs in 63 games for Elizabethton in the Rookie Appalachian League last season after signing with the Twins, earning a promotion to Beloit this year. By coincidence, his first game with the Snappers came at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, evoking good memories for 5-foot-11, 199-pounder outfielder.

Harrington moved from Marengo, Iowa, to Cedar Rapids as a teenager so he could attend Cedar Rapids Xavier High School and work out at Perfect Game USA, which is located across the street from Veterans Memorial Stadium in the southwest part of town.

"Opportunity," Harrington explained. "I had Perfect Game right here, a place to work out during the winter. Just opportunities to do more and try to reach my potential."

Harrington played in Perfect Game's spring and fall leagues, attended PG showcases at Veterans Memorial Stadium and went to a PG event in Nebraska. He practically lived at the Perfect Game facility, working on his game.

Harrington got his big break when he attended Perfect Game's World Wood Bat Association tournament in Jupiter, Fla. The College of Charleston coaches saw him in Jupiter, flew him to Charleston, S.C., for a visit and they struck a deal. Harrington credits his attendance at PG events for getting his chance in college and now the pros.

"It paid off," he said. "It paid off in the long run."

Perfect Game USA became the title sponsor at Veterans Memorial Stadium this year, so when Harrington took his position against the Cedar Rapids Kernels last Thursday he jogged onto Perfect Game Field, thus completing his circuit from high school.

"It was fun," he said.

Prada said Harrington is fundamentally sound and makes all the routine plays in the field. He'd liked to see Harrington improve his arm strength through a training program, and is confident he will. Harrington got a degree in exercise science from the College of Charleston last year, so he knows about working various parts of his body.

Harrington, 23, is pleased with his progress in professional baseball so far.

"I know I'm maybe a year or two older than most guys (in the Midwest League), but I was in college for four years," he said. "I can't do a whole lot about that."
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