Going back to their days on the fields of the Slidell Bantam Baseball Association, Will and Clay Harris are arguably two of the best baseball players to ever come out of the city.
The played together at Slidell High School and then at LSU. Clay had a brief stint in the minor leagues before returning home to become the coach at Slidell High.
The younger of the two Harris brothers, Will is currently the closer for the Houston Astros and was named to the American League All-Star team July 5.
Hoping to get to San Diego to celebrate with Will at Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Clayton said his baby brother beat him to the punch.
“Before I could even mention that I was going to try to get out there, he said he is flying me and my family to San Diego,” Clay said.
Clay will arrive Monday to watch the MLB Home Run Derby and then hopes to watch his brother make an appearance in Tuesday’s game.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, your first All-Star Game,” Clayton said. “It is a special moment for him, and I’m fortunate to be able to share in it.”
Harris has had a phenomenal first half for the Astros, saving nine games with a 0.72 ERA and striking out 38.
Drafted in the ninth round by the Colorado Rockies in 2006, Harris made his debut in Colorado in 2012 before moving on to Arizona in 2013 and then Houston in 2015.
Harris had an impressive 2015 campaign in Houston, leading the team in appearances (68) and relief innings (71.0) while ranking fourth among AL relievers in ERA (1.90) and opponent batting average (.168).
“I couldn’t be more proud of Will,” Clay said. “His success has been the product of a lot of hard work and determination to fight through injuries. He has never given up.”
Those injuries included microfracture surgery in 2008 and Tommy John surgery in 2009.
“Will’s had a long road,” Clay said. “Lots of injuries and a long road in the minors. He also struggled a bit when he first got called up.
“People are talking about how surprising it has been this year that he made the All-Star team, but he has put up big numbers everywhere he has been. He probably could have made it last year, too.”
Harris joins an all-star roster that includes some of the game’s biggest stars: guys like David Ortiz and Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera.
“But when you see on television that your little brother has made the Major League Baseball All-Star team, it is just an awesome feeling. You feel so good for him because it is a reward for all the hard work he has put in,” Clay said.
Current City Councilman Sam Abney, who coached Will and Clay at Slidell High, said he couldn’t be prouder.
“I mean, what can you say when a former player is named to the All-Star team?” Abney said. “I’m truly at a loss for words. I couldn’t be prouder of Will for all his hard work. He is truly deserving of this. The special thing about Will is that while he is an outstanding baseball player, he is even a better person. I’m so happy for him and his family.”
After a lengthy baseball playing career, Clay Harris said now, as a coach, he has a new perspective about the game.
“Now that I’m a coach, I realize that it’s not just talent that gets you to the big leagues,” he said. “When you are a minor leaguer, you realize that there are a ton of guys that have talent. The reason I believe Will has been so successful is that he has a determination about him. A mindset that he is not going to be stopped. That has really contributed to where he is today.”