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October 4, 2013
Baseball is a game of risk versus reward. Few people on South Carolina's 2014 baseball team know that as well as junior Patrick Harrington.
A risk management major and perennial SEC Academic Honor Roll member, Harrington is one of the smartest players on the team, a driven person and driven player who understands and embraces his role on the team in whatever form that happens to be.
For three seasons, that's been as a backup after taking a medical redshirt in 2011, his first year with the program. Rated as high as the No. 3 player in Virginia and in the top 10 catchers nationally, Harrington has been a role player for the Gamecocks. For someone who played four different positions every year in high school - catcher, third base, shortstop and center field - versatility has become as much a character trait as patience.
"I'll play anywhere the team needs me," said Harrington, who got one at-bat last season and played in two games in 2012. "Hopefully they keep working me more in the outfield, because everybody's objective is to start.
"I love the outfield. I feel like my arm has gotten a lot stronger, and I just kind of want to show it off a little. As long as I'm in the game, it doesn't matter where I play. But outfield, is open, obviously, so why not? I pressure coach (Chad) Holbrook to put me in the outfield.
"I'm trying to get some stripes right now, and hopefully I'm impressing them. I'm also trying to impress them at catcher, too, because you never know what can happen. I just make sure I'm prepared to do whatever I can for the team at any given moment."
For Holbrook, what Harrington brings to the team can't be measured by at-bats. Character, intelligence, and respect are measured in ways that don't show up in a scorebook but that last a lifetime and can mean the difference between success and failure not just in baseball, but in life.
"Every player in our locker room respects the heck out of him because of his work ethic, his demeanor, his toughness," Holbrook said. "He can catch. He can play left field some. He wants to win and be a part of this program. He loves this program.
"I think he can get an inning or two behind the plate, play left field here or there. He's a spiritual, emotional guy and is great to have in out dugout."
For Harrington, whose baptism into college baseball was the national championship 2011 season, he understands clearly how important chemistry is to a team.
"The leadership we had was amazing," Harrington said. "You had Adrian Morales who was your vocal leader. You had Michael Roth who was a leader because of his stats and his composure, he can talk to you, he can relate, hitting and pitching.
"You had Matt Price, who was just a flamethrower. You had Jackie (Bradley Jr.), who was silent, but he put on. You had Adam Matthews, Evan Marzilli, Christian Walker, you just had a group of guys who you could tell loved the game and they were with you all the way."
One of those players - Morales - is back as a coach, and Harrington couldn't be happier about it.
"Adrian toughens you up," Harrington said. "He toughens everybody else. He's a vocal guy and he won't lie to you or won't sugarcoat anything because he can't help it. That's who he is. I love that. I feel like we've kind of been missing that. For him to be back will be vital to our team. He's a go-getter. We need that tempo, that strong, vocal guy. You can only have one Adrian Morales."
Harrington hopes the presence of Morales and his own increased role as a vocal leader will help establish a connection for a roster full of new faces to the kind of attitude and leadership that won back-to-back championships and played for a third.
"My freshman year, all those guys were attitude guys," Harrington said. "Things have changed a little. Generations change in that some people come in with a chip on their shoulder, some people come in not ready, and others are trying to test things out. I see it as different.
"I know when to talk to someone and when to not, I know when to let somebody else handle it and when to not. I would rather lead by example than go out and say something. I know my role, vocally, I have to lift people up and help them stay in the game, Of course I want to play, but I understand I have to work for my playing time, and that's exactly what I'm doing."
Whatever the future holds for Harrington, and as a risk management major he's acutely aware the chances of his making the major leagues are minimal, he's soaking up the experience of playing for the country's premiere baseball program and taking full advantage of the opportunities it offers him to create a bright future for himself.
In short, the risk - trying to earn a spot on the best baseball program in the country over the past four years - has been worth the reward.
"So many people go to college, play a sport and will never see a ring," Harrington said. "I have a national championship ring, which is just unbelievable. I was a part of those memories and will always be a part of those memories. It's all about the legacy, and hopefully it still continues no matter what and we can do the same thing this year.
"Everybody wants to make it to the league, but even if I make it, how long am I going to be there? The percentages are small. Of course I'm working to get drafted, but it's in the back of my mind. The team has to come first. I have national championship, I have the SEC ring and the memories of making it to Omaha. I want to get back before I'm done, and I want to create more great memories. I love this place."
And this place - and his coach - love him back.
"We love Pat Harrington," Holbrook said. "We don't know what position he's going to play, but we want to put him in there and give him the opportunity to perform this fall."
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