Harrington finally being rewarded
After waiting nearly four years, redshirt junior Patrick Harrington is making the most of his recent opportunity to play regularly.
Harrington came into the 2014 season - his fourth with the South Carolina program - with just four career at-bats, and played sparingly in the first months of the this current campaign.
Injuries opened the door for Harrington's insertion into the lineup, and beginning with the rubber game against Florida on April 13, the Virginia Beach, Va. native has started eight of the past 15 games, including all three games in right field at Georgia this past weekend.
"It's a dream, basically, that came true," said Harrington, who walked twice and drove in a run in his first start of the year on April 13. "The opportunity presented itself. I wanted to make sure I made the most of it for the team and for myself. I understand the only reason I'm in there is because people got injured.
"But I busted my tail every day at practice and my teammates saw me doing that. I wanted them to believe in me."
Wednesday, Harrington collected a career-high three RBI in USC's momentum-building 15-1 shellacking of Wofford at Carolina Stadium. This past weekend, he had a key RBI single in USC's lone win in Athens and followed that with the first two-hit game of his career on Sunday, an afternoon highlighted by a RBI double.
His first career hit and RBI came in the 8-0 win over Davidson on April 22.
USC coach Chad Holbrook views Harrington's recent flurry of starts as one where remarkable patience and perseverance is finally being rewarded.
Harrington's current batting average might be a lowly .152 (5-for-33), but he has seven RBI on five hits and Holbrook recognizes his contributions to the team extend beyond the field.
"I love Patrick Harrington," Holbrook said. "He's what is right (about college baseball). He is a true student-athlete and someone that works extremely hard. Every day he brings it to practice like its Game 7 of the World Series. He's just a great kid. He has represented our program the right way. It's really special for me to see him get a chance to play, and not only play but contribute. It's a neat scenario."
Holbrook insisted Harrington's role has been so valuable to the Gamecocks that he would hesitate to take him out of the lineup when the regulars (Connor Bright) get healthy and are ready to return to the lineup.
"I'll be slow to take him out even when we get healthy because he looks at the ball good and he'll walk (four walks in 2014). He'll stand in there and get hit by a pitch. He's a tough nut. The more opportunities he gets, the more I learn about him. I know his batting average isn't great, but he's a threat down there in the nine hole to get on base. He will you everything he's got every pitch.
"Yeah, one of the special things that has happened this season is watching him getting an opportunity and watching him do well. With him, it's all about the team. Patrick Harrington only worries about if South Carolina won or lost. He's just a Gamecock. He loves this baseball program and his coaching staff loves him."
Recruited as a catcher, Harrington appeared in six games over three years from 2011-13, primarily serving as a backup backstop behind Grayson Greiner in 2012-13 when he totaled just one at-bat.
Nonetheless, nobody appreciates Harrington's contributions more than Greiner, who has started 43 of 49 games at catcher this season.
"I can sit here and talk for the next two hours about Patrick Harrington," Greiner said following Wednesday night's win over Wofford. "I love him with all my heart and he's one of my best friends. He didn't play a lot here in his first three years and he could have transferred or quit baseball.
"But he has come to the field every day. He's one of the first guys here and one of the last to leave. He works harder than anybody out here. He's getting his opportunity now. The numbers might now show it, but he gets a quality at-bat every time he goes up there."
In spite of the lack of playing time, Harrington, a member of the 2011 national championship team, happily showed up for practice every day, worked hard and earned the utmost respect from teammates.
"It's the guys, it's the team," Harrington remarked when asked what has kept him motivated throughout the years despite a lack of playing time. "Coach has always said it's the memories, the legacy you leave behind. The only things we're going to remember is the games we won, the championships we've won and the guys. You're not going to remember personal stats. It's about what you've done as a team.
"That's all I care about and all I will remember at the end of the day."
Harrington has yet to commit an error defensively.