MARYVALE, Ariz.—Ask any ballplayer what he seeks most, and one thing will come up more than any other: consistency. It’s the product of thousands upon thousands of repetitions and unseen hours of work behind the scenes, and it’s one of the biggest keys to advancing to the highest level.
Over his first two full pro seasons, Brewers outfielder Monte Harrison has had a great deal of trouble being anything close to consistent. It’s not for lack of trying, however. He’s been waylaid by pair of serious injuries that have kept him off the field for long stretches of time. Instead of taking batting practice or working on refining his defense, he’s been stuck trying to get back on the field at all.
A broken left hamate bone cost him approximately two months this season, cutting off his progress just as he was getting hot. He’d struggled the first two months of the season at low Class A Wisconsin, but in 15 games in June was hitting .321/.377/.679 with five home runs before the injury.
“Just to be back on the field, period, there’s a lot of confidence built up,” Harrison said. “Being away from the game, you think about it a lot, especially when you’ve got a lot of routines planned for winning. You really want to be out there, so it’s a lot of fun to be back.
“When I came back (during the season), it was really iffy. I really didn’t feel like myself, but now I feel normal again.”
Harrison felt a little bit tentative after his wrist had healed and he’d returned to Wisconsin for the stretch run. Now, though, he’s going full-bore. It showed on Friday, when he put together an impressive power display in an instructional league game against Angels prospects.
In his second at-bat, facing righthander Ranyelmy Alberto, Harrison swatted a massive home run to left-center field. He went to one knee on the swing, evoking images of Rangers slugging third baseman Adrian Beltre in the process.
In his final plate appearance of the afternoon, against righthander Cristopher Molina, Harrison jumped on an 88 mph first-pitch fastball and scalded it for line-drive double to dead center field.
And as bad as this year’s injury was, the situation was demonstrably worse in 2015. That was his first full pro season after the Brewers took him with their second-round selection in 2014 out of Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West HS and gave him a $1.8 million bonus to sway him from his two-sport commitment to Nebraska.
He was trying to stop on a turn around third base when he broke his left tibia and ankle. The injury required a metal plate and screws to repair, and his season was over after 74 games between Rookie-level Helena and Wisconsin.
“He definitely had two freak injuries—the broken ankle and the hamate—and those are things you can’t really plan for,” Brewers field coordinator Charlie Greene said. “We’re trying to make up for lost time right now (in the instructional league).”
It would have been easy for Harrison to get down about having to spend more time away from the game, missing crucial development while rehabbing consecutive injuries. Instead, he found it easy to stay positive. The injuries aren’t close to the worst thing he’s been through, even at just 21 years old.
His father, Jack Harrison, died when Monte was 6 years old, and he’s struggled to find male role models ever since.
“Not having to deal with a father growing up, I tended to really get in trouble a lot because I really didn’t have anybody in my life who was like, ‘Yo, you really need to stop doing this,” a father figure, you know what I mean,” he said.
“Until I really got older and really grasped it as an seventh- or eighth-grader. It kind of just went from there and it really started turning around.”
That’s no longer a problem. He’s got coaches around him for most of the season who are always available to help.
“It’s definitely a lot of confidence knowing they’ve got a lot of faith in me,” he said. “Before these last two seasons I’d never been a guy who’s really ever been injured, so these last two seasons have been kind of rough at the end of the day. … I just give all the faith in them knowing they’ve really got confidence in me.
NOTES: Harrison wasn’t the only Brewer to hit a home run on Friday. Two more prospects—infielder Wendell Rijo and center fielder Trent Clark—each went deep against Angels pitching.
Lucas Erceg, who was profiled by our Vince Lara-Cinisomo here, followed Clark’s home run with a ringing double inside the first-base line. He also made a pair of spectacular plays at third base and showed off a strong arm in doing so.
The Brewers’ starter was righthander Taylor Williams, a fourth-rounder in 2013 whom Milwaukee signed for $400,000 out of Kent State. He missed all of the last two seasons dealing with elbow injuries that required Tommy John surgery last August.
He went just one inning on Friday, but showed a mid-90s fastball that touched 97 with excellent life running away from righthanders. He complemented the pitch with a mid-80s slider that got swings and misses.