'More to come' for Harrison

Photo: Kyle Harrison (Perfect Game)

Cory Van Dyke
Published: Sunday, August 4, 2019

Opposing batters oftentimes timidly enter the box when they see Kyle Harrison standing 60 feet and six inches away from them. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound southpaw is equipped with an arsenal that’ll make the most dominant of hitters quiver.

Harrison will flash a fastball up to 93 mph. He’ll mix in two breaking pitches with a slider and curveball, and he can finish batters off with a sinking changeup.

The Danville, California native is the No. 20 overall player in the 2020 class and the No. 3 lefthanded pitcher. All of those pitches will be on full display later this month at the 2019 Perfect Game All-American Classic.

“It means everything,” Harrison said. “I’ve been working hard to get to this point. I think there’s still more to come. I’m not finished yet. It’s definitely rewarding because you know that you achieved something great.”

Harrison’s father, Chris, remembers all the long weekends of travel ball and the car rides with his son from field to field. He thinks back to the days of little league baseball where opposing coaches would tell him that Kyle was special with his repetitive patterns and overall smoothness on the bump. It’s all led to this moment.

“It’s been a long process,” Chris said. “A lot of work has been involved and a lot of baseball through the years since he was 5. That’s every kids dream to play baseball and play it through high school and play it at high levels. It’s rewarding to see because he really loves it too. He’s passionate about it and he loves it and it’s fun to see him be successful at it.”

It’s not just the pitch selection that Harrison has to choose from that makes him so filthy. The southpaw operates from a lower arm slot that’s awfully deceiving for those at the plate. 

There’s also a competitive edge about him. He’s not afraid to go after hitters. All of this explains why he models his game after the Red Sox Chris Sale, noting that now he’s “trying to get a wipeout slider like [Sale’s].” In Harrison’s first Perfect Game event earlier this summer at the National Showcase in Arizona, he was able to throw an electric outing that really got the folks in attendance buzzing.

“It was awesome,” Harrison said. “I couldn’t believe it when I got to go out there and pitch at the Diamondbacks stadium. It was pretty sweet. It was surreal being in the moment. 

“I’m not really a guy who’s afraid of competing. I love to compete. I love to go against the best guys and test my stuff to see where I’m at.”

Harrison’s all-around game on the mound stands out from his peers. His father has noticed a certain intangible that allows the All-American to operate at peak proficiency.

“He’s just a pretty relaxed dude,” Chris said. “Bases loaded or anything crazy going on, he never got frazzled. Nothing fazes him. He’s had that same type of thought process and composure throughout his whole career… That’s something about him that makes him pretty special too.”

What’s wild about Harrison’s development is that this could all be for naught if not for an early discovery. Harrison naturally swung a bat righty, so when he was gifted his first glove, Chris had purchased a righthanded thrower glove. 

“He bought me a righthanded glove and was like, ‘This kid throws funky. He’s not looking too good,’” Harrison said with a laugh.

Chris was baffled. He knew his son was able-bodied, but he couldn’t understand why he looked so funky throwing. It wasn’t until halfway through that tee ball season that a switch was made.

“I was like, ‘What’s going on? I know he’s athletic.’ We switched gloves midway through the season and the rest took off from there,” Chris said. “God bless him, he’s a lefty.”

Both Kyle and Chris are able to chuckle while reminiscing on that story, but that one glove change has led to one of the premier lefthanded prep arms in the nation. That’s why when choosing which high school to attend, the Harrison’s decided the private high school De La Salle would be the best path for Kyle.

Known for its football program and impressive 151-game winning streak from 1992-2004, Harrison has helped transform the baseball team into a force to be reckoned with. According to Perfect Game’s rankings, De La Salle finished as the No. 6 high school team nationally in 2019. 

It was the fourth straight year that the Spartans have won the North Coast Section Division I title, an occasion that Harrison has enjoyed for the past two years. Harrison’s time spent with De La Salle including his first year on varsity as a sophomore has helped him comprehend the potential that he has in the sport.

“I noticed my sophomore year when I got to play on varsity and started to get a lot of starts,” Harrison said. “My velocity kept jumping and jumping and I thought, ‘Whoa, if my velocity keeps increasing maybe I have a chance.’ I stayed with it and kept that attitude like I want this. No one is going to take this away from me. I’ve just been working hard and trying to be the best version of myself.

“Going to De La Salle, they strive a lot on the person you are off the field. I think I’ve grown as a person, not just a baseball player. Just being around the right group of friends and the right guys that push you toward excellence.”

Harrison explains that he doesn’t have one major influence on his baseball career. Instead, it’s an amalgamation of everyone who has been by his side every step of the way. 

He thinks about all of this teammates who have always picked him up. There’s his parents who have been his unconditional support and the mentorship of his grandfather, Skip Guinn, who was a flamethrower with the Braves and Astros from 1968-1971. And then there’s the coaches who have pushed Harrison and guided him as a player.

After his senior year, Harrison will likely be faced with an important decision. The UCLA commit could head south to Los Angeles as a key cog in John Savage’s pitching staff, or he could soon begin his professional career following the 2020 MLB Draft.

“It’s a win-win,” Chris said. “I’m always checking with him to make sure he’s having fun and enjoying the game. That’s what matters… Good things are going to happen regardless. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He knows what the opportunities are. Live for the moment and just enjoy the ride right now.”

Harrison will certainly enjoy that ride to San Diego in the coming days. From there, even if he doesn’t imagine it now, the future is bright for the southpaw as he continues to play America’s pastime.

“I don’t think about it too much,” Harrison said. “I’ll just think about it when I get there. Just have that attitude of wanting it and your dreams can come true.”

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