© 2022 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Lee's Summit Native Makes MLB Debut As Coronavirus Sidelines His Marlins Teammates

Lee's Summit Native Monte Harrison Bats (No Fans).jpg
Joseph Guzy
Miami Marlins against the Atlanta Braves on July 22, 2020 at Truist Park in Atlanta, Georgia.

The pandemic delivered Monte Harrison an opportunity that came with a downside: 17 of his Marlins' teammates have been diagnosed with the virus.

There are two parts to someone’s dream of making it to the big leagues in baseball—actually stepping on the field and sharing that moment intimately with those who’ve been there every step of the way.

Six years removed from Lee’s Summit West High School, Monte Harrison only got to do one.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Harrison’s family stayed back home instead of traveling to Baltimore where the Miami Marlins played with Harrison as the Marlins starting center fielder. Harrison went 0-for-3 in his Major League Baseball debut on Tuesday night.

He tweeted out before the game how proud he is to become one of only four sets of brothers to play in the NBA and MLB. Older brother Shaq, also a Lee’s Summit West graduate, plays for the Chicago Bulls.

“That always sat in the back of my mind,” said Harrison. “When that actually happened, he (Shaq) didn’t know that I was going to make that tweet and make that be known. It was kind of a surprise to him.”

The Marlins resumed their schedule after playing only three games because 17 Marlins players were sent to the team’s injured list for positive coronavirus tests.

Harrison was in Miami at the team’s alternative training site anticipating a call-up.

“I told myself, ‘There’s no way I’m not going to the big leagues right now,’” recalls Harrison, who says he was five minutes into his packing process when he got the call from the parent club.

Joseph Guzy/Joseph Guzy/Miami Marlins
2020 Photo Day at the Marlins Spring Training facility at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Florida on February 19, 2020.

Upon Monte’s arrival at Camden Yards in Baltimore, he soaked in every big league moment despite the lack of fans and the absence of his family there.

“Before the game, there were a whole bunch of things going on that I was paying attention to,” says Harrison. “Just little things like how they announce names (on the PA system).”

But there was something about those moments, detached from his brother, his older sister and his mom (Michelle Francis) in the stands, that just didn’t feel the same.

It stirred up emotions for close friends, too, like Bret Wagner. He was an assistant football coach at Lee’s Summit West when Shaq and Monte both played multiple sports there and pledged a long time ago to be present whenever and wherever Harrison played his first big league game.

“It’s unfortunate that myself and his family couldn’t be there to support him because he’s been waiting for this for a long time,” said Wagner.

Harrison, who turned down a football scholarship offer to the University of Nebraska, signed to become a professional baseball player in 2014 after he was picked in the second round of the 2014 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. Four years later, the Brewers traded him to Miami.

Harrison has kept his bags packed for a long time for this trip. He only hopes his family and friends can pack up soon, too, to join him.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make non-profit journalism available for everyone.