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'Surreal' | Braves top prospect Michael Harris set to make debut tonight

Harris, an outfielder, was called up by Atlanta on Friday from Double-A.

ATLANTA — The first call Michael Harris II made after learning he would be getting the call to the Majors to debut with the Atlanta Braves was to his parents.

"I randomly asked if they could pick me up from the airport," he said. "They were kind of confused."

He did get around to explaining, and his dad indeed picked him up Saturday at the airport and later took him to Truist Park, where he's in the lineup for tonight's game against the Miami Marlins.

Harris, an outfielder and metro Atlanta native who is now the Braves' top prospect, will bat ninth and play center field.

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It's a remarkable confluence of excitement. For the Braves and the team's fans, it's a first glimpse at the a player they're projecting as the next franchise's next big star.

For Harris, the local boy who grew up a devout Braves fan, it's the fulfilment of a lifelong dream.

"Surreal feeling. Actually seeing my jersey up in the locker, my last name on it, and just being in the lineup today - definitely very surreal feeling," he said.

Harris recalled his own early memories as a Braves fan - including, hopefully in a sign of things to come, when Jason Heyward (also a metro Atlanta native) homered in his first at-bat in the big leagues.

"I got a lot of comparisons with him when I was younger," Harris said.

The 21-year-old, with his blend of speed, defense and a mature hitting skill that's seen him hit .297 the last two years in the minors with an on-base percentage better than .360, will ideally bring a spark to the Braves.

The defending champions have been in a bit of one-step-forward-one-step-backward rut all season. They've gone exactly 12-12 in May, never winning more than two in a row and never losing more than two in a row. For the year they're a middling 22-24, already 7.5 games back of the Mets in the NL East race.

Not exactly where they were hoping to be coming off the 2021 World Series championship.

Harris said he's someone who will give "110% every day." The Braves could use it.

The outfielder was taken in the third round of the 2019 draft and had a strong debut, hitting .349 for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Braves in 31 games before a callup to Rome.

Then, like other players in his cohort, he lost the 2020 season. However, unlike the other players in his cohort, Harris appears to have never missed a beat in his development.

After hitting just .183 in his first exposure to Rome after the 2019 callup, Harris hit .294 with a .362 OBP, seven home runs and 27 steals in 2021. Promoted to Double-A Mississippi to start this season, he hit .305/.372/.506 in 174 at-bats with five home runs and 11 steals - enough for the Braves to decide it was time to give him a chance in the Major Leagues.

"I feel like I got a lot better in 2020, actually, without a season," Harris said. "Going to the alternate site in Gwinnett, facing all the big league talent there, building a routine, seeing how they have routines that work for them and make them successful."

Harris said he didn't get much rest between finding out about the callup yesterday and getting to the airport this morning, admitting in the press conference he's still a bit drowsy from it all.

But by game time, he figures to have plenty of adrenaline.

"I'm gonna get there," he said. "It's gonna be fun."

   

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