All-Star Game Starter, Mets Ace Harvey a Connecticut Kid With Big Heart
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“HE’S NEVER CONTENT”
“Matt wanted to play in the big leagues from the day he could say big leagues,” says Tom Doyle, a family friend who coached basketball at Groton’s Robert E. Fitch High School, where Harvey was a star on the baseball team.
It’s a dream lots of kids have and one that usually doesn’t come true. But Harvey was different. “He’s got a gift,” Doyle says. “Some kids look like they’re going to be ‘All World’ at 10, but by the time they’re 14, everybody else has gotten just as big as them. But that wasn’t the case with Matt. He threw hard at 10, he threw hard at 14, he threw hard at 18, and even among big-leaguers, he’s throwing harder than most.”
Harvey is the son of two schoolteachers, Ed and Jackie Harvey, and has two older sisters. His baseball and Connecticut roots run deep. His grandfather, Tom Harvey, spent 40 years working at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton. His father, Ed Harvey, played center field at UConn in 1972, the year the team went to the College World Series. Ed Harvey then went on to coach the varsity baseball team at Fitch for 28 years, including four with Matt on the roster. During Ed’s tenure, the team won three state titles and more than 400 games.
“He’s a legend” is a phrase you hear over and over again about Ed Harvey in the Mystic area. In addition to his son, he coached Jesse Hahn, a pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and Matt Browning, who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners. Since retiring from Fitch, he’s worked as an assistant coach at UConn Avery Point.
Ed Harvey’s friends call him “Hawk” because of his intense, hawklike gaze. He has white hair and a proud, old-school, pay-attention-to-detail swagger. “His lawn is more lush than a fairway, his woodpile just so,” wrote Wayne Coffey in a recent New York Daily News story.
The coach never forced baseball on his only son. He didn’t have to.
“Matt wanted to get on the mound at 6 or 7 years old when he was playing T-ball,” the elder Harvey recalls. “His main goal was always to be on the mound. I never had to push him to get out and practice or anything like that. In fact, it was the other way around; he pushed me. He’s always had that drive to be a baseball player.”
Ed Harvey studied pitching at coaches’ conferences and read books on the subject. He would constantly catch for Matt in the family’s backyard. Focusing on mechanics, he helped his son develop the graceful and compact pitching motion that has became his trademark.
He also taught him to keep a level head in the face of both success and failure. “I use a coach’s attitude: Matt’s doing a great job but you’ve got to keep doing it, and then when it’s all over you look back and see what you’ve accomplished,” he says.
It’s a lesson Matt Harvey still carries with him. In May he told reporters that after each start he gives himself 24 hours to enjoy the success or beat himself up about mistakes.
“Good start or bad start, you can be mad or you can be happy,” he says. “But when I throw my next bullpen, it’s time to move on to the next start.”
Harvey is his own biggest critic and he’s constantly striving to get better. When he prepares for a game, he is straightforward in his approach. “I’m not a big film guy. I watch opponents in person and just worry about executing my pitches,” he says.
Kevin Carlow—a Fitch High teammate who just graduated from Brown University, where he was a standout pitcher—says Harvey “is never content. He’s the first one to the field and works hard every day. I think that’s what’s going to make him good for a long time. He’s going to keep trying to find ways to fool batters and always have the upper hand.”