Flying Squirrels have 1st African-American manager
Fred Jeter | 12/29/2017, 1:22 p.m.
The Richmond Flying Squirrels have their first African-American manager, Willie Harris.
Harris, 39, played for the former Richmond Braves in 2007. He succeeds Kyle Haines as manager of the Class AA Eastern League Squirrels.
Coincidentally, Harris shares the same hometown — Cairo, Ga. — as Major League Baseball’s first black player, the late icon Jackie Robinson. Harris still lives in Cairo during the off-season. Robinson, who broke baseball’s color line in 1947, was born in Cairo in 1919.
Known for his speed and defensive versatility, Harris, a left-handed hitter, played in 1,046 big league games with Baltimore, the Chicago White Sox, Boston, Atlanta, Washington, the New York Mets and Cincinnati.
In 2005, Harris was a second baseman and outfielder with the World Series champions Chicago White Sox.
On Sept. 24, 2010, while with the Washington Nationals, he smacked the first inside-the-park home run at Nationals Stadium in a game against Atlanta.
In 2016, Harris served as a hitting instructor for the White Sox Rookie League affiliate in Glen Falls, Idaho.
Harris becomes the Squirrels’ first African-American manager. The franchise had two previous managers of color, José Alguacil, a native of Venezuela, in 2015 and Miguel Ojeda of Mexico in 2016.
The Richmond Braves, which preceded the Squirrels on the Boulevard from 1966 to 2008, had two African-American managers, Tommie Aaron in 1977 and Chris Chambliss in 1992. Aaron, the younger brother of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, was the first African-American manager in the International League.
The Flying Squirrels open the 2018 season April 5 at Trenton, N.J., against the Trenton Thunder.