Willie Harris moves on with the Mets, but he misses the Nationals
Around the batting cage mid-morning at Digital Domain Park, Willie Harris received hugs and handshakes as if he was at a family reunion. He wore a New York Mets jersey, which he admitted still felt a little funny, as he glad-handed with his old Nationals teammates.
During the three years he played with the Nationals, Harris became one of the genuinely revered players in the clubhouse. Teammates loved playing with him; closer Drew Storen earlier this spring called him one of the favorite guys he's ever played with.
But goodwill only goes so far, and after 10 years in the majors, Harris knows that well. The Nationals cut ties with him, and he received only a minor league deal from the Mets, the Nationals' division rival and opponent today.
"It's a tough pill for anyone to swallow," Harris said. "But when you hit .183, that's pretty much what you're looking at. I thought I had a pretty good year as far as production off the bench. But overall, they look at your batting average. I had to do what I had to do. I know what type of player I am, and I know the Nationals know what type of player I am. But there wasn't room for me."
Harris said he had little contact with the Nationals between the end of the year and the moment he signed with the Mets. "I miss being over here with these guys, but unfortunately you have to move on," Harris said. "When one door closes, another door opens. I'm looking forward to this opportunity I have in New York and plan on making the best of it."
Joining the Mets provided Harris a poetic twist. He became infamous in New York for his game-saving catches against the Mets, including a diving catch for the final out of the ninth inning with the bases loaded last April. Now, he'll have a chance to do the same thing to the Nationals. Harris will likely make the Mets as a bench outfielder.
Harris remains in touch with a gaggle of old Nationals teammates. The other night, he drove to Viera to have dinner with Ian Desmond and J.D. Martin, and on the way home a car rear-ended his Range Rover. He was fine, but his car was totaled. Harris said he also still chats with Michael Morse, Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Zimmerman, Sean Burnett, Storen, John Lannan and others.
"I love all those guys, man," Harris said. "It's a part of the game when you have to move on. I still love those guys. Now I've got to try to beat them."
| February 28, 2011; 12:34 PM ET
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