Indiana dad manages both sons in World Series - six years apart

By Dave Gorgon

            The odds of getting to the Junior League World Series are pretty remote. Making it to two World Series – six years apart – just doesn’t happen very often.

            Dave Harris of Fort Wayne, Indiana, has had the thrill of getting to two World Series in Taylor – and managing both of his sons.

            Harris coached his boys, Joshua and Tyler, and his daughter, Samantha, since they were in T-ball. In 1999, Harris managed Joshua’s St. Joseph Central Junior League All-Stars, who made it to the World Series. This year, he’s managing Tyler’s team in the same international tournament.

            Both Harris boys played second base for their team. Both teams had excellent records against teams from Indiana and in the USA Central region, played both years in Fort Wayne, but neither team had much success in the World Series.

            In 1999, Joshua’s team competed in double-elimination format. After losing just one game prior to the World Series and then winning its first series game against Lake Charles, Louisiana, 3-1, Fort Wayne lost to Arroyo, Puerto Rico, 9-1, and Coquitlam, British Columbia, 4-3.

Arroyo – the same league and city from Puerto Rico represented in this year’s World Series – went on to win the series in 1999, beating Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, 1-0, in the thrilling championship game.

            Several players on that Fort Wayne team went on to have successful high school baseball careers – and a few have excelled on the college level. Joel Bauer is a catcher at Purdue University in the Big Ten.

            This year, St. Joe Central arrived in Taylor with a 10-0 record, outscoring opponents, 112-17, along the way, and defeating five state champions in the regional tournament. In the regional championship game on August 11, the team stunned Burlington, Iowa, 16-1.

In Taylor, the Fort Wayne boys were outscored 40-11 in pool play and went 0-4. On Friday, they defeated Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands, 7-3, in a crossover game.

            The Harris family hasn’t judged its time in Taylor by wins and losses. Fort Wayne is located about three hours southwest from Taylor, so the teams that make it to the World Series generally have a pretty good following. Harris said the experience has been outstanding.

“To be lucky enough to have good ballplayers surrounding my oldest and good players surrounding my youngest six years later is unforgettable for me. We came in 1999 to win and we came in 2005 to win. It just wasn’t in the cards. I think our expectations were higher than they should have been. I don’t think people realized what the competition is here.

“But to get here with two separate children, wow, I can’t be any happier for my kids.”

Harris’ wife, Mary Beth, said his goal is to make sure the World Series is memorable for his players.

“He’s here to make sure those kids have a good time,” she said. “He goes over that scorebook every night (and wonders) what did I do wrong – what needs to be different the next day? It’s all about the boys. That’s what he’s here for: strictly the boys. He tries to make everybody happy, but he’s here to make sure the boys can have the biggest experience at the World Series they could have.

“To watch Dave bring both his boys here: what else would you want?”

Joshua, now 20 years old and in an apprentice program for electricians, drove to Taylor Thursday with his girlfriend, Katie. He remembers each game that was played in the 1999 series and how his then-9-year-old brother was “really into pin trading.”

“I grew up playing baseball, Joshua said. “Dad loved playing baseball. I started in T-ball and played ever since. I love playing for him.”

Sister Samantha, who is remembered by her dad as following the boys around in 1999, had to leave Taylor midweek to begin school at Ball State University. She’s 19.

            At age 9, Tyler said his goal was to get into the World Series some day – just like his brother.

            “I just wanted to come here because he came here,” Tyler said. “I wanted to be like him.”

Tyler, now 14, said every bit of the visit to Taylor has been “awesome.”

“I liked the experience and had a lot of fun,” he said, adding that meeting the “foreign kids” was the most memorable part of the trip.

            St. Joe Central has been to Taylor five times. Two other leagues from Fort Wayne have played in the World Series. In all, teams from Indiana have played in 10 World Series – the most among Central states. Only one Central team has won the World Series. Boardman, Ohio, won the inaugural series in 1981.

“The people in the World Series – the players, the coaches, the hosts, the families – just anything you need, anything you want,” Dave Harris said. “They’re there at your beckon call. The players get along so well with each other at the hotel. They can’t even speak English to each other, but they can speak baseball and they can laugh and shake hands. They made really good friends this year with the Puerto Ricans and the Netherlands people.

“I told my wife last night, maybe there’s a way I can get one of my grandsons back here and I’ll be coaching him,” Harris said. “That would be awesome.”