SARASOTA, Fla. - Where else can you go to work dressed only in shower sandals and a batting helmet?
One March day in 1999, or maybe it was '98 or 2000 (the years and the gags run together when you are Pete Harnisch), Pete Harnisch boarded a Reds team bus wearing what God gave him. Reds chief operating officer John Allen was on the bus. On Friday, Allen would neither confirm nor deny that. No matter.
"I'll confirm it," Harnisch said. "They kicked me off. I didn't have correct change."
He liked that gag. He also liked the time he took a shower on the sidewalk in front of the Reds offices at Ed Smith Stadium. The daily naked jumping jacks were Harnisch's idea, too. "Something for the guys in the training room," he said.
Peter Thomas Harnisch is a piece of work. Some of us forget that baseball, stripped of its labor wars and pouty superstars, is just a game. Harnisch never forgets. "I've always been an idiot," he said Friday. "I'm happy to be one. I just like to screw around."
He's trying to come back from Tommy John surgery on his elbow. Harnisch went to spring training last year with the Colorado Rockies, threw 58-foot fastballs and had an MRI on Opening Day. "My elbow was blown up," Harnisch said.
Pete Harnisch will throw batting practice Saturday.
(AP/Al Behrman photo)
| ZOOM |
His first impulse was to retire. His wife told him to have the surgery. Even if he never pitched again, he still could play golf or tennis. Then Harnisch got to thinking:
What if I decide a year from now I want to come back? How can I walk away not knowing if I could still pitch? Where else could I do naked jumping jacks and not get arrested?
"I really didn't wanna go out like that," Harnisch said. "Satisfying myself was a big part of it."
He's coming back for the competition, is what he says. But watching him work the room, you know it's a lot more than that. Harnisch struts through the locker-room subculture of towel-snappers and dirty jokesters, talking that Noo Yawk talk, his barrel chest preceding him like a truck bumper. He looks like he owns the joint. Which he does.
He's the guy at the all-night poker game, smoking the foot-long Cuban cigar and cracking wise about your bad haircut. Harnisch would miss the games, sure. But no more than the circus that surrounds them. Pete likes being Pete. Without the game, he's just Mr. Harnisch.
"My arm feels tremendous. I'm doing a little bit more than they thought I'd be doing," Harnisch said.
He has been through shoulder surgery and elbow surgery. He has battled depression. "I've been dealt some pretty bad cards in some spots." But he's here now. The arm works. His jokes are funny. He's 36 going on Dennis the Menace. The clubhouse is still home.
"If this arm gets healthy, I know I can pitch," Harnisch said. "I don't have any doubt."
Is Pete Harnisch going to make the Reds? Could he emerge from the current cast of millions as the fifth starting pitcher?
No telling. He will throw batting practice today, 75 pitches in 12 minutes, "as hard as I want." He'll wake up Sunday morning hoping his elbow doesn't hurt. And he'll go from there. Along the way, Harnisch will enjoy every minute. The clubhouse is lighter for his presence.
BENGALS / NFL
Bengals land free agent DE Powell
Neal's gone, and Spikes could be
Titans interested in free-agent corner
It's Parcells and Glenn again - this time with Cowboys
REDS / BASEBALL
Reds ticket sale brisk
Reds look to the fans to get them to payoff
So far, so good: Griffey looking like his old self
Daugherty: Clubhouse gags
Injury will push back Wilson's debut 7-10 days
Yankees amused by Wells' book
New pitches could extend Leiter's career
Q&A with The Kid
COLLEGE BASKETBALL SATURDAY
Beating UC next step for Calipari's Tigers
Muskies come home, face struggling G.W.
BG offers opportunity for streaking Miami
Enquirer Tipoff page
Catching up with John Loyer
Five Questions with Saint Joseph's mascot Steve Klarich
Big 10: Underdogs?
NCAA mulls war contingencies
Harrick Jr. suspended after allegations
Louisville's Stone still eligible, attorney said
UC women roll over Memphis
Miami hires defensive coordinator
Panthers pounce on No. 1 Tigers
Crusaders' win streak reaches 13
Friday's Ohio games
Friday's Kentucky games
James unstoppable in sectional game
Hamilton track star becomes AD at Fairfield
CovCath, Scott strong in qualifying
Five locals advance to final round
Prep hoops tourney schedules
Big foe for Jones, big risk for Ruiz
Boxing proving cathartic for Harding
Woods rolls to Match Play quarters
Champali heads field for Turfway's Battaglia
Congaree heavy favorite in Santa Anita Handicap
Ducks slay Monsters
ANOTHER SPORTS OPINION
As The Sports World Turns
PLAN YOUR DAY
This weekend's sports on TV, radio
Return to Reds front page...