Owen Harriott joined the Red Deer Riggers this season with the idea of adding a left hander to the pitching staff and depth at first base.
Tuesday, the six-foot-four, 260-pound Harriott gave an indication his bat may be the most valuable part of his arsenal as he slammed a mammoth home run over the 40o-foot mark in deep centre at the Sylvan Lake facility.
“I think I like hitting a bit more than pitching,” he said. “When you’re pitching well it’s more fun, but when you’re hitting well that’s more fun.’
Over the past year, it’s his time at the plate and at first base that’s been the most enjoyable.
An elbow injury just prior to the Covid year has played a major role in his time on the mound.
“I injured my UCL and it’s been tough coming back,” he said. “It’s as tough mentally as anything. You get just a little pain and start worrying about it.”
Owen suffered the injury while attending an academy in Langley, B.C.
He sat out over the Covid years before rehabbing at the Absolute Human Performance in St. Albert.
“They had a great facility there, run by Taylor and Owen Burns and Ethan Elias,” he said. “You can rehab and also be part of an academy. My final year there we played several games in Edmonton, B.C. and in Vegas, which was a lot of fun.”
They also secured Owen a scholarship to Colby Community College in Kansas.
Last season he started the year with Fort McMurray in the WCBL, but a hip injury shortened the season.
“I didn’t want to push it, so I took the rest of the year off to prepare to go to college,” he explained.
His freshman year in Colby had its ups and downs. His downs came on the mound, where he threw just 8.1 innings with a 19.44 ERA. The ups came at the plate.
“I didn’t throw the ball that well and first the first part of the season I didn’t play much. I did break the tip of my finger, so that didn’t help matters either.”
Coming back from the injury he found himself at first base most of the time and it went better than expected.
He finished with a .355 batting average with 27 hits, 12 runs, six doubles and three home runs. His on base percentage was .388 while slugging .700, giving him an impressive OPS of 1.088.
Owen was born and raised in Red Deer but played hockey most of his life.
“I never played competitive baseball until I was 13 or 14,” he said.
“I played a year with the bantam AA team and a year with bantam AAA and a season with the midget AAA program.
His year in midget didn’t go as well as he liked so he looked at the Langley Academy.
“I didn’t get along with the midget coach that well,” he explained. “The bantam coaches were great, but it’s one of those things, so I got an opportunity to go to Langley and it seemed like a good opportunity for me.”
As for playing with the Riggers that was a last minute thing.
“I was going to take the summer off, but was sitting at home and was getting bored so I gave Jaret (Riggers manager Chatwood) a call. He said I was more than welcome.
“It’s been perfect. I just didn’t want to play five or six times a week.
“The league is even more competitive than I expected.”
Three other members of the Riggers — Anthony Chatwood, Kohle Huber and Gavin Galenza — also attend Colby.
Owen fits in nicely with a strong group of younger players on the Riggers, who are preparing to host the Canadian championships Aug. 24-27 at Great Chief Park.
“We have an interesting group. About half of us are around 20 and a half over 30,” said Owen, who is looking forward to the future with the Senior AAA squad.
“Once I finish school I hope to continue playing baseball and I’ll likely be around Red Deer so it’s a good opportunity for me,” he said.
Owen is taking an Associate in science pre-health studies and an Associate in Arts and Psychology at Colby.
He hopes to have a strong second season with Colby and find a spot on the Division 1 NCAA squad.
“I’m looking at taking Psychology, but not positive … will have to see where it goes,” he said.
But as of now, he’s looking to help the Riggers win the provincial title.
As for playing in the Nationals, that’s up in the air.
“School gets in Aug, 21, so that’s when I’m expected to be there,” he said. “However, being in my second year I could possibly talk with the coach about coming down a week later and be here for the Nationals … that would be fun. We’ll see.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com