Hitting: It’s Just A Harrison Thing
When former UH baseball star Kenny Harrison and wife Kaleko flew from the Islands to Arizona to watch their eldest son KJ play his first collegiate games for powerhouse Oregon State earlier this season, they had no idea what was in store for them — or for KJ.
“I was more nervous than I’ve ever been in my life,” Kenny recalls. “I’ve faced some of the top pitchers in the game and I was never bothered at all. But to watch my son play at this high level, I just had so many emotions.”
KJ (his given name is Kainoa), a former all-state star at Punahou, wasn’t nervous. His parents saw him the way they’ve watched him grow up in Kailua: with a smile on his face. “That’s the way he always is — smiling,” his dad says.
With his parents in the seats at beautiful Surprise Stadium outside Phoenix, KJ started at first base and hit in the three-spot in the Beavers’ batting order — that’s usually reserved for the best hitter on the squad — and promptly delivered. His first collegiate hit was a triple. Before the week was out, KJ socked his first collegiate home run, his first collegiate grand slam and his first game-winning hit. Showing no fear against some of the top teams in the country, KJ went 10-for-22, hitting .455 for the two-time defending Pac-12 champions, and was named the conference player of the week.
“He went crazy hitting the ball,” Kenny says.
A little later, after his parents had returned to their home in Kailua, came even bigger news. Kainoa “KJ” Harrison, in his first week as a collegiate baseball player, was named college baseball’s National Hitter of the Week.
“I guess I’m not surprised by what he can be. He’s always had potential, but I will admit I was surprised how well it went,” his dad says.
(Dad was a pretty good hitter too. In the alumni game a few years ago, he smacked two home runs.)
Since that incredible debut, KJ has started every game for OSU — he’s the only player on the roster to do so — at either first base or catcher. He continues to lead the team in hitting, home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage despite being only a freshman.
He’s also not the only frosh starter on the OSU baseball team. His roommate is second baseball Christian “C-Boy” Donahue of Iolani.
“C-Boy and I are great friends. We’ve known each other for years, we’ve got the same sense of humor and love hanging out,” KJ says.
They’ve also got a great place near the Corvallis campus to remind them of home.
“It’s called Local Boys Café and they’ve got barbecue chicken, shoyu chicken and mac salad, so that’s good,” KJ says.
Dad also sends care packages from home. “I work now for H&W Foods, so I occasionally can send something. I know he likes his Spam and li hing watermelon,” Kenny says, laughing.
“My dad always taught me to be positive — he’s always smiling, too,” KJ says. “And he’s a funny guy. It’s been an awesome experience here so far. I always dreamed of playing baseball like this, and to see all of our hard work paying off, it’s a real blessing.”
“It’s real early still,” Kenny Harrison says. “Yes, he’s gotten some good ‘pub,’ but he knows it’s all about the team. The most important thing is for him to contribute to the team and stay a humble kid from Kailua. We’re so proud of how he’s carrying on the Harrison name. I’m so thankful he’s my son.”