In the midst of one of the most-important showcase events of his young baseball career, Calvin Harris embraced the opportunity to shine in a different kind of spotlight.
All of the participants in last August’s Perfect Game All-American Classic took time out of their busy week to visit a pediatric hospital in the San Diego area. They shared baseball cards, played Connect Four and just hung out with the patients for a few hours.
And Harris savored every moment.
“It didn’t matter what our names were or how good we were at baseball … the kids were excited to see us just because we wanted to spend a little time with them and help them feel a little better,” said Harris, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound catcher considered a top prospect for next month’s Major League Baseball draft. “They’re going through some extremely hard times, not only for them but for their whole families. To be able to put smiles on their faces is a reward like no other, and it really makes you realize how fortunate you are to be healthy.”
Harris’ blend of athletic achievement, classroom success and exemplary character resulted in another prestigious honor this week for the Western Dubuque High School senior three-sport standout.
Gatorade named the University of Mississippi signee as its Iowa Baseball Player of the Year for the second consecutive summer. Harris, who carries a 3.75 grade point average, will be eligible for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award.
“This just reinforces what we’ve known about Calvin for the last few years,” Western Dubuque baseball coach Casey Bryant said. “He’s just the total package with his work ethic, his talent and his character. He’s got it all.”
Harris became the first Iowa player to win multiple Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year Awards since the program began in 2001. The list of previous winners includes eventual Major League Baseball players Jeff Clement (Marshalltown, 2002), Ryan Sweeney (Cedar Rapids Xavier, 2003) and Jeremy Hellickson (Des Moines Hoover, 2005).
“It’s a special honor, especially when you look at all the baseball players on that list,” Harris said. “They’re not only tremendous baseball players, but they’re also tremendous people who I’ve looked up to and have heard nothing but great things about.
“At the same time, this is an honor that reflects on the people I’ve had surrounding me the last couple of years — the teammates, especially, and the coaches. It’s a tribute to our team, the fans and our community. It’s an honor I’m proud to share with the Western Dubuque community as a whole.”
Harris didn’t have to look far for a positive role model in the Western Dubuque community. His cousin, Spencer Haldeman, won the Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year award in 2013 before becoming an integral part of the University of Northern Iowa program. Haldeman recently completed his collegiate career with the Panthers.
Harris served as a ballboy for the Bobcats’ basketball team while Haldeman starred in high school.
“Spencer is such a great guy and he set such a great example for all of us growing up,” said Harris, who made time for coaching youth sports and participating in several service projects while in high school. “When you’re a little kid growing up, it’s important to see that kind of character from your role models. It definitely carries over to the next generation of kids at your school.
“I always wanted to set the kind of example Spencer set for our class. If you treat the younger kids with respect and dignity and help them along, it can make a world of difference. That’s what I took away from Spencer, and that’s what I hope I passed on to the next group of Bobcats.”
Harris earned a spot in the varsity baseball starting lineup as an eighth grader and has batted .375 (174-for-464) with 31 doubles, 16 triples, 16 home runs, 176 RBIs and just 20 strikeouts in four seasons. On the mound, he has gone 11-2 with a 0.91 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 91 2/3 innings, most of which came during his sophomore and junior campaigns.
As a junior last summer, Harris hit .408 (42-for-103) with 10 doubles, 7 home runs, 40 RBIs, 46 walks, 5 strikeouts, a .709 slugging percentage, a .593 on-base percentage as a junior in leading the Bobcats to a 32-10 record and a second straight Iowa Class 4A state tournament appearance. He went 3-1 with a 0.88 ERA, 63 strikeouts, 32 2/3 innings and a .155 opponents’ batting average.
Harris last summer collected the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division Player of the Year award, Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 4A first-team all-Northeast District honors, Iowa Print Sports Writers Association Class 4A first-team all-state accolades and a spot on the IHSBCA All-State Super Team for a third straight year. The Telegraph Herald has named him its player of the year for the past two summers.
Harris also earned TH player of the year honors in football the past two seasons and led the Bobcats to the Iowa Class 3A state championship last fall. He ranks among the school’s top all-time scorers in basketball as well.
“Harris makes whatever sport he’s playing look incredibly easy,” Linn-Mar baseball coach Kirk Rodenkirk said in nominating Harris for the Gatorade award. “He’s a dominant hitter, pitcher and catcher, as well as quarterback and basketball player.”