Sox Series hero Harris begins new chapter

Member of '05 champs managing Class A Advanced Winston-Salem

Sox Series hero Harris begins new chapter

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The name Willie Harris immediately evokes memories for White Sox fans of the eighth inning during Game 4 of the 2005 World Series, when the pinch-hitter singled to open the frame in a scoreless contest and eventually scored the lone run via Jermaine Dye's single in the historic sweep completion.

Harris played parts of 12 seasons, amassing 107 stolen bases while working across the infield and outfield, but even in retirement, he hasn't left the dugout. The 38-year-old served with Justin Jirschele as the White Sox Instructional League managers in Arizona into mid-October, after serving as hitting coach for a Great Falls' Pioneer League playoff team during the '16 season.

One of the many White Sox World Series heroes begins his next calling in '17 as manager for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem. This new job took root when assistant general manager Buddy Bell asked Harris if he had interest toward running a team when Great Falls was in Ogden early last season, by Harris' recollection.

"I've always known I wanted to be in the game," said Harris during a recent interview. "I knew I was a lifer for sure in baseball because of the passion that I have, the energy that I have and the desire I have to want to see these kids get to the next level.

"Being able to put my own personal career to the side and help others and help them live out their dream, that was more important for me then to sit at home doing nothing. It has been a lot of fun watching these kids grow."

Part of that growth comes from Harris' tutelage.

During an Instructional League contest at Camelback Ranch, Harris took time in between innings to give Jameson Fisher a few words of wisdom on how to play the previously hit fly ball a little smoother. Fisher, a highly touted fourth-round selection from the 2016 MLB Draft, made a position switch to the outfield upon arriving in the organization and worked with Harris at Great Falls.

"Willie has a feel for everything: Hitting, outfield play, infield play," Bell said. "He's real articulate. Kids love him."

"It was a play where I could have got a little bit better jump," said Fisher of the specific Harris instruction. "As soon as the ball was hit, I took a few steps, not full speed, and if I got a better jump, I would have caught the ball. He told me what I did and how I could have made the play a lot easier."

Fisher raved about the entire Great Falls staff, featuring Tommy Thompson as manager and Matt Zaleski as pitching coach. Zaleski moves to Class A Kannapolis in the same role for '17, while Thompson's new title is camp coordinator/assistant, player development. That role gives him the freedom to work with and advise first-year managers such as Harris and Jirschele.

Thompson already provided Harris assistance in the teaching aspect of the job, turning knowledge as a player into the right knowledge as a manager. Harris will continue to teach and learn as he begins the next portion of his career.

"By me being a former player and knowing what my guys are going through, I think that will help me to be a better manager," Harris said. "That's the dream ultimately, to be a manager in the big leagues. You have to bide your time, put time in, just like everyone else, and grind it out."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.