St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mitch Harris looked a little more like the Naval Lieutenant he also is as he took the field for pregame warm-ups before Sunday’s game. Instead of the usual red baseball cleats, he was wearing black, Nike combat boots.
“Lackey said I need to wear them all day today for BP and throwing,” said Harris, who had received a package of military gear from Nike. “It’s cool. It’s just a reminder of what a special day it is to remember everybody who allows us to do this on Memorial Day.”
The first graduate of the Naval Academy to win a Major League game, Harris has been featured on MLB.com and several other outlets, which he is comfortable balancing with his baseball duties. But he does encourage everybody to remember the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.
“It’s one of those things–it’s tough, a lot of people say thanks for your service,” explained Harris. “We are appreciative of people recognizing that, but today’s not our day. Today is the day of people who aren’t here, who allowed us to be here. That’s the meaning of today, is to really remember those guys and girls who sacrificed their life for us so we could do what we want to do, fulfill our dreams.”
Thankful and fortunate to have not lost anyone he served alongside during combat operations, Harris shares that he was taught early on at the Naval Academy of the realities he and others could face.
“We have a whole Memorial Hall,” he said. “Everyone who has passed away, that’s gone through the Academy. It’s a sacred room there at the Academy. That’s a place that you always–it reminds of you of what it’s really about, especially a day like today. You think of the names in that room and what they did, where they may have wanted to be in life but they gave a sacrifice. You can’t even put words to it.”
Today, Memorial Day will be celebrated with a National Moment of Silence following the National Anthem at 3pm. Harris said that while on active duty, the day wasn’t so much a celebration but rather a chance to honor those before him.
“It’s tough to celebrate because so many lives have been lost, but you honor what they did and you just remember the sacrifice that they made,” he said. “It’s hard to put words to it because it’s unfathomable what those guys have done–to think that they gave their life for the guy next to them, it’s something that you don’t understand until you’ve been there.”
photo credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports