By Barca Blog - After patiently waiting for their time to play, shortstop Brian Harris (R-Jr.) and centerfielder Alex Hilliard (R-So.) will now get their chance as everyday starters when the Commodores open the 2009 baseball season at Stanford this Friday.
Sure, they have big shoes to fill with the departure of All-SEC performers Ryan Flaherty and David Macias, but head coach Tim Corbin is confident in Harris’ and Hilliard’s abilities to step in and do the job.
“We know what they can do,” Corbin remarked prior to Tuesday’s practice, “but they’ve just been hidden under players who have been here for three years.”
Corbin calls Harris the “jack of all trades” due to his versatility as an infielder. Harris started 31 games at third base and second base in 2008 due to injuries to Pedro Alvarez and Alex Feinberg, and even played first base during his redshirt freshman year in 2007.
When Harris was thrust into the spotlight last season, he didn’t flinch. He contributed seven multi-RBI games and had the team’s fourth longest hitting streak at 10 games. His experience will come in handy in a lineup full of new faces.
“Brian handles the bat well and he’s just unnerved,” Corbin said. “He’s at a point now where he can just play the game of baseball and not worry about some of the other things.”
While Harris has seen some time on the diamond, Hilliard enters his third year with only three career at bats. Hilliard had a good fall season and flourished last summer in the New England College Baseball League and the Cape Cod League. He’ll now have to make the transition from role player to starter for the Commodores.
“When Alex came out this year, he had no one in front of him so his confidence just soared,” Corbin said. “I do think this summer helped him. I think there’s a part off him that says, ‘You know what, I can do this.’ Sometimes you tell a kid he can do it, but it really doesn’t happen until the kid identifies with success and understands that he can be a part of this. Alex has taken on more of a role and he’s got an edge to him that I really like.”
Corbin describes Hilliard as a player who could play any of the three outfield positions if called upon. He can also "run, hit, display gap power and has good energy for the game".
Through hard work and dedication, Harris and Hilliard are both prime examples of players that have paid their dues and earned the right to be penciled in on Friday’s starting scorecard.
“It’s very fulfilling for them and for the coaches,” Corbin added, “being able to play guys like that who have been very patient for two or three years and now their time arrives where they’re everyday players, and they’re good everyday players, too. It’s just good to see that happen because I think they’re going to blossom.”