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Thursday, November 25, 2021

Denny Harriger hoped to make the bigs someday and he did - 11 years later

Taken by the Mets out of high school in 1987, Denny Harriger wasn't sure if he'd sign. He still had high school ball to worry about, he told his hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"If I sign with the Mets, I'll do the best he can and maybe make it to the majors someday," Harriger told The Post-Gazette then. "But I'd like to win states first, that's for sure."

Whether he won states or not, Harriger did sign with the Mets then. He also went on to make the majors - someday.

For Harriger, though, his someday turned out to be 11 years later, after more than a decade spent in the minors. 

His someday finally came in June 1998 - into his 12th pro season - as the hurler took a major league mound for the Detroit Tigers.

"I saw the batter step into the box, and I said to myself, 'Hey, this is it - this is what I worked for my whole life,'" Harriger told The Detroit Free Press afterward.

Harriger ended up seeing batters step into the box over three other major league outings that month. Those four outings ended up being the extent of his major league career. But he got there. 

He also ended up seeing time in six more seasons elsewhere, finally ending his career with his independent Lancaster Barnstormers in 2006.

Harriger's career began in 1987, taken by the Mets in the 18th round of the draft out of Ford City High School in Pennsylvania.

Harriger started with the Mets at rookie Kingsport. He went 2-5, with a 4.33 ERA over 12 outings, seven starts. He returned to Kinsport for 1988, then saw single-A St. Lucie and short-season Pittsfield in 1989.

After returning to St. Lucie at high-A in 1990, he eventually saw AA Binghamton briefly in 1992 and for all of 1993. He went 13-10, with a 2.95 ERA over 35 outings, 24 starts.

He signed with the Padres for 1994 and moved up to AAA, at Las Vegas. He then played two more campaigns there, without seeing San Diego.

Herriger arrived with the Tigers for 1997, signing there as a free agent. He played at AAA Toledo and went 11-8, with a 3.99 ERA. He returned to Toledo to start 1998, then got his call in June.

In his four major league outings, he started twice and saw 12 total innings. He also gave up nine earned runs and picked up three losses to no wins.

He played at AAA with the Reds in 1999, then saw Korea for 2000 and 2001. He went 17-10, with a 3.12 ERA with Koreak's LG team in 2000.

He saw independent Long Island in 2003, Taiwan's Chinatrust and independent Nashua in 2004. In 2006, he saw 26 starts at Lancaster and went 17-4, with a 2.63 ERA to end his long career.

In 2009, Harriger was inducted into his home county's hall of fame, the Armstrong Hall of Fame. He reflected to on his career, including his long road to his brief stint in the majors.

"Knowing what I know now, if I had to go back and start again as a senior in high school, I would change very little," Harriger told TribLive. "We're not on this Earth very long, in terms of years that we live. You've got to make the most of it."

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,789
Made the Majors:1,279-33.8%-X
Never Made Majors:2,510-66.2%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:526
10+ Seasons in the Minors:315-X

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