By Eric Butler
John Harris has spent much of his life traveling around the country as either a baseball player or manager.
The former Clovis High baseball standout hopes this spring and summer he can cut down on the days spent away from home as the new manager of the Amarillo Dillas.
A long-time Amarillo resident, Harris coached another Central Baseball League team — Rio Grande Valley — based out of Arlington, Texas, last year. In 1999 and 2000, he coached Lafayette in the then-Texas-Louisiana League.
“I was just living in a hotel over the summer. It’s great now — I’m probably one of only two managers in the league to live in their own towns,” said Harris, after a Dillas’ exhibition game on May 1. “It’s nice to sleep in your own bed.”
He takes over a Dillas team that finished 46-50 last season while missing the playoffs for the first time since 1994.
Harris was a three-time All-American at Lubbock Christian University and played six years in the California Angels organization. He was a career .300 hitter in the minor leagues and spent parts of three seasons with the Angels between 1979-81. He was a first baseman and outfielder.
This is Harris’ second stint as a manager at the Dilla Villa as he once led a team of college players called the Amarillo Texans in 1992.
“I try to let them play,” said Harris of his coaching philosophy. “I want to be a players’ manager, but I have certain rules. Basically, I want them to act professional and play hard.”
The CBL is an independent league with no affiliations with Major League Baseball.
Harris said he does make the trip back occasionally.
“I try to, but I don’t get back as much as I’d like. I love Clovis — it’ll always be home.”
There is another Clovis connection for the Dillas in Joe Frank Wheeler, a longtime radio personality who graduated with Harris from Clovis High in 1973, is the public address announcer for the Dillas.
Wheeler said he remembers Harris as a great high school athlete.
“John was a great guy. A great athlete — great basketball player, great baseball player,” Wheeler said.
The Dillas (2-4) play their home opener today against the Shreveport Sports.
“We just want to get the franchise back on top — be competitive and have a team that the fans want to come out and watch,” Harris said. “Just play good baseball, basically.”