116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — It was 10 a.m. Thursday, and Calvin Harris had just gotten done working out, taking some batting practice and doing other stuff at the University of Mississippi’s baseball complex: Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.
Never mind that he and his Rebels team won a national championship just four days earlier. There’s always work to be done.
In the case of the former Western Dubuque prep and 2020 Gazette Male Athlete of the Year, that’s preparing to play in the prestigious summer wood-bat Cape Cod League next week. Featuring top college players from around the nation, the Cape Cod League has spawned the careers of many a major leaguer over its years of existence.
Harris will be a member of the Cotuit Kettleers in Massachusetts.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
This last month has been fun and then some for Harris, who just completed his sophomore season at Ole Miss. The Rebels dropped out of the Southeastern Conference tournament with an opening-round loss, leaving their record at 32-22 and squarely on the bubble for an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.
They ended up getting that bid, literally the last team in the 64-team field, tearing through their regional in Coral Gables, Fla., winning all three games, sweeping Southern Mississippi in a super regional and ending up in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
It was victories over SEC foes Auburn and Arkansas in their first two games. Arkansas edged them in their third game in Omaha, 3-2, but the Rebels knocked off the Razorbacks to reach the best-of-3 championship series and disposed of Oklahoma, 10-3 and 4-2, to get their national title.
“I really felt, we felt like as a team, that there was a belief that if we got into the tournament, we were capable of winning a national championship,” Harris said. “That had always been our goal since February. We were playing well in the beginning (of the season), then, obviously, we weren’t playing very well the middle of the year.
“Kind of came around toward the end of the year. I’d just say our belief once we got into the tournament, we knew everything was 0-0 again. We just had to go out and play baseball.”
Harris, his team’s right fielder, was named to the all-tournament team at the MCWS, going 8-for-20 at the plate with five runs and six RBIs. That included a pair of home runs, the middle of back-to-back-to-back shots for Ole Miss in the first championship series game against Oklahoma.
A kind fan who caught that homer ended up giving the baseball back to Harris as one heck of a keepsake.
“That was a dream week-and-a-half, two weeks,” Harris said. “Everything just seemed so surreal because it just flew by. It was incredible.”
Harris ended up leading Ole Miss with a .336 batting average in 43 games. He missed fall ball his freshman year because of surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow, an injury incurred in high school.
A catcher virtually his entire life, he said he’ll return to that position in the Cape Cod League, as he looks to better his professional stock going into his junior year, when he will be eligible for the 2023 MLB Draft.
“As you know, back home, Western Dubuque and the Dubuque County community is very close-knit. It’s like a family,” Harris said. “So it was definitely a big transition to come down to school here. But I’ve been fortunate enough to make some really good friends, not only on the baseball team but in class and whatnot.
“We have a good support system here that really helps you get involved with different people and make it feel more like a family atmosphere, especially for a kid like me who is 10 hours from home.”
His mom, dad, sister and brother, were regulars at his games at the College World Series, as were other family members and friends. An unforgettable experience for a kid from Epworth who took a chance going to the Deep South for college.
“I just kind of rode the wave of what we did in the postseason, to be honest with you,” Harris said. “I started out playing pretty well, then middle of the year I didn’t play as much, wasn’t playing as well. Then when we got hot at the end, I started playing better.
“Overall, I felt good about it. Obviously you feel good about a season when you’re national champions. That’s always the goal at the end of the year.”