story by Stephanie Cardozo photos by Nelson LaPorte
Rick Harris is a volunteer coach at the Pooler Recreation Department and business owner. Rick was born in the Columbus area and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. Rick went to school at Alabama State, playing baseball in first position; pitching. While playing ball, he lived through an experience that would change him forever.
In 2004, Rick suffered from a collapsed lung, changing his life and dream of being drafted and playing professional baseball. “That collapsed lung hit me pretty hard and switched up my values in life,” he says. He goes on to calling this experience a “recalibration of dreams.” In saying so, Rick shows great strength in what happened to him and moved forward with it as a learning experience rather than allowing it to break him down.
“I really began to value a lot more and felt so much closer to God,” he said. After going through the healing process, both physically and mentally, Rick focused more on his studies and excelled in all sense of the word. “You have to encourage some sort of life outside of baseball,” Rick says about diving into his academics. He studied business administration, but also had tapped back into his love for art. “My father was an artistic painter and taught me the arts at an early age.” Creativity lives inside of Rick. He found another love in the arts and switched his major to graphic design. Saying he is well versed in the art of design would be taking it quite lightly. Rick started a project in creating a brand identity company. He took what he learned in his internship with a design firm helping small businesses bring their vision to life with web design, marketing, logo branding, etc. and turned it into a business. This started his path to entrepreneurship at the age of twenty-four.
After Rick and his wife worked successfully in bringing this new dream to life. They started their family. Rick went to SCAD for a time and explains how much of what he learned he took with him. He was able to build another business with his wife focusing on her knowledge and experience in the hospitality industry. “She is my backbone and I have learned so much from her. I admire her for the work she’s done and for not making work feel like a transaction, but an interaction,” he explains about his love and admiration for his wife. Their company provides sales support and marketing for hotel owners around the United States.
Rick graduated from SCAD in 2016 with a Master’s degree in Design Management. Achieving his Master’s Degree was not only a personal success, but for his mother as well. “She has always encouraged me to pursue education to the highest level and never stop learning. She taught me, if you stop learning, you stop growing.”
Rick now coaches little league baseball at the Pooler recreation department as well as three 8U travel baseball teams. He works alongside Tommy Gibbs, who he describes as someone who is a true friend. “Working with another coach who has a deep passion and knowledge for baseball paves the way for a successful run for our kids in the community.” Rick speaks of the kids on his team as if they were his own, with a love and admiration for their dedication to the game and how much they have learned.
“I have a need for the game and I believe God was telling me to slow down and said hey buddy, wake up! That’s when my lung collapsed,” he says, explaining why he coaches and why he wasn’t able to take his baseball career where it potentially could have gone. “He woke me up and He did so for something good. I wanted to provide something, a good foundation for these kids, not only for baseball but for life as well. This may sound strange, but baseball reminds me of life.” He goes on. “Not in the sense of games but in the sense of strategy, discipline, dedication, and passion. Elements of the game that also provide for living a good life and moving with integrity.”
“The core and foundation of how I teach my own kids is if you can consistently bat three hundred, no matter how many losses, if you try ten times and only win three, you are still doing well. You are still trying. I don’t even look at it as wins, I look at it as successes,” he explains with sincerity. “I know people who I’ve gone to college with that just stopped trying. That is something that I don’t want these kids to ever lose, and it’s the sense of trying.”
Rick teaches his kids and his teams that the importance in life, not only in the game, is to continuously try. “No matter how difficult the challenge, remember how it made you feel in the beginning and go for it,” he says.
“Life is a beautiful thing and it will teach us a lot if we just calm down, sit back and really observe,” he explains with a fire in his voice for both the game and life. Rick takes his coaching seriously. He is a true advocate for the future of these kids and the values they can learn from playing the game and using such discipline in their life moving forward.
It’s people such as Rick that make a mark, a real impact in children’s lives. The kind of people that a child will forever remember because of the interaction and dedication they show for them.