MILWAUKEE -- As he sat on the bullpen bench watching Adam Wainwright get helped off the field, Mitch Harris received the summons he's been waiting on for so long. He called the circumstances "bittersweet," but with his debut on Saturday, Harris became the first graduate of the United States Naval Academy since Nemo Gaines in 1921 to appear in a Major League game.
Harris, who was called up on Tuesday, threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings in the Cardinals' 5-3 win over Milwaukee. He struck out the first batter he faced, Adam Lind, and will go home with the ball he threw past the Brewers cleanup hitter.
"When the phone call came in, obviously it hit me that this is finally happening," said Harris, a former lieutenant in the Navy. "But once I hit the field, it's just like every other day. It's the same game, the same things happening. I think once the warm-ups were finished I really felt, 'OK, now I'm ready.'"
It took Harris nearly seven years to reach a Major League mound after being a 13th-round First Year Player Draft pick by the Cardinals. In between, he met his five-year service requirement in the Navy, during which he spent time in the Persian Gulf and South America. Two of his shipmates from the USS Ponce, the first of two ships Harris sailed on, were, along with Harris' fiancée, in attendance at Miller Park.
"It's guys like that who really help me to focus in and do what I need to do," Harris said. "Like I've said before, there are a lot of people involved in this story. My name is on the front of it, but there are a lot of people who have helped me get to where I'm at through the struggles and the years where we weren't sure if it was going to happen."
After striking out Lind, Harris allowed a pair of hits and two walks before being relieved by Matt Belisle. Belisle stranded Harris' two runners with key sixth-inning strikeouts to preserve what was then a two-run lead.
"He did a real nice job," manager Mike Matheny said of Harris. "He came in and did exactly what we hoped he would do. We just made the best of a bad situation."