SportStars Magazine

Kyle Harrison: De La Salle Baseball’s Kyle Cool

Kyle Harrison, De La Salle Baseball

With Unshakeable Poise, Hard-Throwing Kyle Harrison Is Dominating Opposing Batters And A Big Part Of The Spartans’ 9-1 Start To 2019 •

It’s no stretch to say Kyle Harrison was businesslike from the day he was born.

OK … maybe the day after.

“He was born in San Jose and, pretty much, the next day I remember we got into a Dodge Durango and moved to Orange County for work,” said Kyle’s father, Chris Harrison.

Kyle Harrison’s unflappable maturity has helped him build a stellar pitching record at De La Salle. (Photos by Chace Bryson)

There’s a Zen-like frostiness about the 17-year-old De La Salle-Concord southpaw that’s difficult to pin down. It’s not even close to cocky. Nor is it necessarily intimidating — unless, of course, you’re standing in the batter’s box when the 6-foot-2-inch junior launches a 90-something inside fastball.

“He’s California cool; you would never know if he has two guys on base, or no one,” said Chris. “You just don’t know if he’s doing great, or not. He’s so calm. It’s like he’s wise beyond his years.”

Looking at his numbers helps. After striking out seven of ten batters he faced at home on a rainy March 28, against Summit High of Bend, Oregon, (one walk and no hits), the Danville resident entered April 4-0 with a 0.39 ERA. He’s also hitting .414 in 29 at-bats as a first baseman.

During De La Salle’s 2018 North Coast Section Division I baseball championship season — the school’s fifth Div. I title since 2012 — Harrison was 9-1 with a 1.17 ERA, earning him EBAL Pitcher of the Year honors. He was also a 2018 MaxPreps National All-American and Cal-Hi Sports All-State Underclass. He struck out 71 batters and walked 23 in 54 innings. 

 “Winning the 2018 NCS title, with my teammates, it was a feeling … you can’t really describe it,” said Harrison, who requires prompting to discuss his feats. “At De La Salle, we really trust each other and we want the best for each other.”

Kyle Harrison, De La Salle Baseball

Harrison entered April with a 4-0 record and 0.39 ERA for the 2019 Spartans.

Harrison frequently diverts to lauding teammates, coaches and the program. It’s something his coach promises is the real deal.

 “I think he has the natural ability you look for in a left-hander, but he also has a maturity about him,” said David Jeans, De La Salle’s coach since 2011. “He’s great with his teammates … he’s a sports-first kind of guy, but he also serves (other students) lunch in the lunchroom. As much as he could ‘big-time’ people, he’s just a normal guy. You could not tell this kid is going to play at UCLA. If you talk to all of his teachers, they love him. He’s quiet. He gets his work done. He’s like an old soul.”

Which might not be true of a regular teen for whom UCLA rolled out the red carpet before he even threw a varsity pitch. Harrison toured California colleges after his freshman year, which he spent dominating junior varsity competition. He committed to UCLA not long after he turned 16.  

“Some people say it’s pretty early,” Harrison said. “I saw it as a place I could improve my skills. The early commitment takes some pressure off, but there’s an expectation. You’ve got to bust it, because someone’s always going after you.

“By the end of the season, Coach Jeans wants us to be able to coach ourselves. He’s hard on us, but he also wants the best for us. He just wants to see us working.”

Kyle Harrison, De La Salle Baseball

Harrison gets set for action at first base during a March 29 home game against Dublin.

His coach said it’s a mistake to judge Harrison at first glance. 

“One thing people don’t know is how complete of a player he is,” Jeans said. “His competitiveness is off the charts. People don’t understand because he’s so calm. But he wants to win. He’s got special tools. He knows what his goals are. But he does want to contribute (at the plate) the next couple years, on and off. He just loves to win.”

Harrison seemingly has all the physical necessities for success, with an even better attitude. His dad said he’s always been that way. 

“He’s very humble; very cool,” said Chris Harrison. “He’s wise beyond his years. I was very careful not to overthrow him when he was younger. He’s a lefty, so there’s that (temptation to overuse him in a right-handed world). I have to give a lot of credit to Coach Jeans. He knows them, from the time they come on as freshmen. He develops them, so by the time they get to varsity, they’re ready. That’s why I sent him to De La Salle. I wanted the best for him. You’re competing against the best. Even the umpires are hard on us. When they get to college, they’re ready for life. They grind.”  

Chris Harrison remembers his son’s poise as a 7-year-old Little Leaguer. 

“We played the Yankees. He was pitching and he got the bases loaded and he somehow got out of it. The opposing coach came over after the game and (talked about it). Kids that age, they sometimes cry when they’re in a jam. But he was just ‘boom, boom, boom,’ like it was nothing. You were like ‘Dang, this kid is something special.’ Then he got tall and got the arm strength.” 

Kyle Harrison, De La Salle Baseball

Harrison is just as capable with a bat in his hands. He entered April with a .414 average in 29 at bats.

Taking inspiration from Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale (“I like his attitude; you’ve got to go right at guys”), the younger Harrison credits his arm slot for at least part of his success. Throwing at the same angle and having a four-pitch repertoire (fastball, slider, curve, changeup) keeps hitters off balance.

And he’s still developing physically. Harrison lost 15-20 pounds in December from a bout with flu. He’s since worked hard to get his strength back up. His fastball, which is topping out around 93 mph, could easily jump up to 95 by senior year.  

“He’s been taught to find the edges of the plate and taking his game to another level,” said Jeans. “He’s a really a crafty pitcher, as much as he’s a power guy. A true, old-school baseball player.”

Harrison comes by the label honestly. 

His maternal grandfather is Skip Guinn, who pitched parts of three seasons with the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros between 1968-71. Guinn, who had 40 strikeouts in 36 big league innings, was a teammate of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Joe Torre, Phil Niekro, Joe Morgan and former San Francisco Giants managers Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou.

“He’s a darn good athlete,” said Guinn, who lives in Oklahoma and, like his grandson, throws left-handed and bats right-handed. “Last time I saw him throw, he was keeping it down and away from hitters. He’s the type of kid that you tell him something — not even showing him, but telling him — once, and he gets it. His control down is something else. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s got a love for the game, and that’s important.”

“(Kyle) has his arm,” said Chris Harrison. “It’s totally genetic.”

It will be a busy summer for Kyle Harrison, who’s been invited to a number of national developmental showcases. 

The big question, of course, is what happens when the 2019 Major League Baseball draft rolls around. Chris has already heard from a number of “advisors,” curious about Harrison’s intentions, should he decide to forego college. 

“I’m still a junior, but there’s been talk,” said Kyle. “We’ll deal with it when we get there.”

Spoken like a true master of California cool.

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