Josh Harrison and his family were on the way home to Cincinnati from Philadelphia, where he’d been in camp before he requested his release when he learned he would not make it onto the Phillies’ 30-Man Opening Day roster.
Harrison, 33, and a veteran of nine seasons, had another job lined up, but Washington’s Nationals called and they wanted him on their big league roster, so he told his agent to make it happen.
“I was actually prepared to sign with another team,” Harrison explained when he spoke with reporters in the nation’s capital moments before his contract with the club was announced.
“I was literally 20 minutes from home,” he said. “Knowing that this team has asked for my direct deposit information, the whole nine, we just haven’t signed the letter of agreement and this or that.
“And my agent called me twenty minutes from home, and was like, ‘Uh, change of plans, Washington wants you in the big leagues right now.’ I said, you know what, let’s do it. I wish they’d have called me eight hours prior, but at the same time, I’m thankful for the opportunity. But it was good to drive my wife and kids home, because those three weeks in Philly, they were going pretty crazy. So they can be home, I was able to drive them home, and I got up the next morning at 5:00 [AM], drove here Friday, took my physical and I was taking every precautionary step to be active as possible.”
Why was he so eager to take the Nationals’ offer? Harrison said it had a lot to do with what the Nats were offering as opposed to other teams.
“One, it was an opportunity right away,” Harrison said. “The other places wanted me to get there, take my test, and kind of see me for — I don’t know how long, maybe it was a couple days, a week, or whatever the case may be.
“I was just ready to go somewhere that I knew needed help right away. And this was the best opportunity because they said we want you right away.”
“It’s been one of my favorite places to play,” he added of D.C., “and they’ve got a team that they won it all last year, and at the same time, yes, they may have lost some pieces, but they’re a team that knows how to win and are in a position to win. And I know I can come in, I’m healthy, and I’m ready to go wherever I can.”
“He became available,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said when he discussed the new addition to his club.
“He’s a guy that can play multiple positions, right-handed bat, guy is full of energy that we felt could help us coming off the bench, spot start here and there in different positions.
“He was a good addition we felt, for us, I think he’ll fit right in. Like I said, the way this season is going, the energy is — we need a guy with that energy and that spark.
“We feel like he can bring that.”
Hand injuries and a hamstring injury have limited Harrison to a total of 133 games in the majors in the last two seasons, but he said he learned some important lessons while he rehabbed from the injuries and worked to get back to the point where he could actually contribute to a big league roster.
“I know I played through some things that I probably shouldn’t have,” Harrison said, “but that’s just me as a player and a person, I’m going to give you everything I’ve got, and nothing has ever been handed to me, so me in those situations, me taking time off was like, I don’t expect time off, I expect if I’m healthy enough to play, to play.
“In those instances I could have made it worse than it actually was, and I did. But just learn how to — I’ve always listened to my body, but at the same time I’ve listened to my mind more than my body at times, knowing that I’m strong-minded to say, ‘Oh, I can play,’ when in all actuality, it’s, ‘Yes, you can play, but it’s not to the best of your ability.’ Like, sometimes it’s not worth playing if you can’t be yourself. Sometimes you’ve got to learn the hard way, but I look at the silver lining of everything, I was able to spend time with family while I got myself healthy.”