LAND O’ LAKES — Dakota Harris has a new nickname.
The Vacuum Cleaner. But its not for the reason you may think.
It’s because the Land O’ Lakes 11-year-old is playing out of position, but making the switch from shortstop to third base look easy.
“I like the nickname and I like shortstop, but I’m taking one for the team because the shorttop was on the team last year. I like playing the hot corner because every ball hit to me is on a cherry hop,” Harris said. “This team is probably the best team I’ve ever been on and I’m playing with kids that are just as good or even better than me. Its been so much fun.”
Harris, who plays for the Tampa Heat AAU team, is part of the very impressive roster that makes up the U12 USA Baseball National Team, which is the midst of a dominant run at the COPABE Pan American Championships in Mazlatan, Mexico. Through seven games, the team has five — yes, five — no-hitters and has outscored opponents 54-10 through Thursday.
“There’s a lot of good players out there and I remember at the tryouts, thinking all the other players were a lot bigger than me,” Harris said. “Well, I’m the smallest player on this team and I thought I tried my best and I’m glad to be a part of this team.”
Harris went through two rounds of tryouts to make the team. In October, he made it out of the first round in North Carolina, then made it through five days (July 4-9) in the second round in Compton, Calif. After that, he and the team went directly to Mexico where they’ve been on a tear, beating the national teams from Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil. Harris is one of three players from Florida on the USA team, while one of the others is Jackson Miller from Trinity.
“They are just overwhelming everyone here,” David Harris, Dakota’s dad, said. “Coaches are calling him The Vacuum Cleaner at third, while his hitting started off a bit slow, but he had a couple RBIs (vs. Brazil).”
Dakota comes from a baseball family. His father played at the Triple-A level for the Anaheim Angels, while his older brother, Dylan, was a former Land O’ Lakes standout, now entering sophomore season at Saint Leo University after leading the team in hits (71), runs (45) and stolen bases (13) and had eight doubles, a triple, three homers and 37 RBI. His other older brother, Dustin, will be a Gators varsity starter later this upcoming school year.
“Well, the boys are all baseball stars,” the Harris matriarch, Sherri, said with a laugh. “Me, I’m supportive — you win some and you lose some, but its amazing to go out there and see Dylan, Dustin or Dakota and think, ‘Wow. That looks just like his dad,’ which is where they get the love of the game from.”
Sherri also made a road trip to watch Dakota and the Tampa Heat play in Cooperstown in June, then left to drive up to Worcester, Mass. to see Dylan play for the Bravehearts in the summer league.
“Baseball is a big part of our lives,” she added. “When you have all boys, it’s nice that something keeps them together. I’m just glad to see them all be successful.”
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.