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Julian Harris

interview conducted by todd starowitz

How did your baseball journey begin?: “Having a dad who is a personal trainer and conditioning coach, and my parents doing that, I was born into that lifestyle immediately. 

I played three sports growing up and started playing baseball when I was four-years-old. When I was eleven I was recruited to play for the Motor City Hit Dogs, a travel team based in Detroit. We had a really good team. We were ranked first or second in the country, competing with a team from California for the top spot.

At a very young age I was able to play a high level of baseball, which I think has carried me to where I am now. That team split up, and then I bounced around to a few different teams, trying to find a good match to get me recruited. I played for Top Tier out of Chicago and then for Wow Factor National, but that team split up as well. I then went to Canes Midwest out of Indianapolis going into my sophomore year.

We played in all of the big tournaments: LakePoint, East Cobb, and others, and we played well and had a really good team. After that summer with the Canes, I started working with NPA.

julians story overcoming cancer

How did you first connect with Greg Wright?:    “My dad knew Greg through some of his work. 

 (Julian’s dad interjected): When Julian became a freshman, more and more people kept mentioning the name Tom House. Working in the field, I kept hearing a lot about NPA and people told me to call Greg. I knew of Greg, but I didn’t really know him.

 

 When it looked like Julian’s future was going to be in pitching, that’s when I knew I needed to connect with Greg. Julian had been hurt with a dislocated kneecap, and when he first started coming back, we connected with Greg.”

 

 Why did NPA resonate with you?: “I’m a cerebral kid and wanted to know why my bicep tendon was hurting. Was I lifting wrong? Was it my mechanics? NPA provided the answers, and they made sense to me.  It showed me what was happening from top to bottom. I figured out quickly that NPA is the best program for arm care. I stuck with that, and the arm care, coupled with the huge velo jump, gave me all the confidence I needed in the world in the program. 

 

I learned to get muscular endurance and sat at 90 instead of touching 90. Last Fall, I was up to 94 and 95 before being diagnosed with cancer, and that set me back for a couple of months, and now I’m back to 91 and 92.”

How did you begin working with NPA?: “I was doing a little bit of NPA as a freshman, but I was doing something else, so I got away from it. At that age, I wasn’t very mature and didn’t understand the NPA stuff.  I was doing Driveline and throwing plyo-balls. After my sophomore year I began doing NPA protocols with NPA coach Greg Wright, who coaches in Michigan. I found the NPA stuff fascinating. I’m a student of the game and got into all the little details involved with the NPA program. 

The mechanical things were very interesting, and I worked hard at it for three months, and my velo jumped eight miles per hour. I was then really locked in because I was seeing the benefits. I just kept learning. Greg and I worked five days a week. We began using the NPA performance app that provides all the workouts from Tom, (NPA Vice Presidents) Robert Ambrose, and Dean Doxakis as well as other NPA coaches.  Getting to see those workouts was super cool.”

When did you first get to work directly with Tom House?: Last summer I got the opportunity to fly with Greg Wright to an NPA clinic in Colorado and that’s when I first met Tom, Robert, and (NPA Vice President) Dean (Doxakis). 

The clinic was amazing and fascinating. I tried to take in Tom’s thoughts throughout the weekend. I fell in love with the NPA program and the mental side of things, and I took what I learned there and carried things over. Last Fall (2023), before my cancer diagnosis, I went to San Diego and worked with Tom, who was teaching the NPA coaches new protocols. I was one of the athletes who attended with my coach, Greg Wright

We trained for about eight hours every day, and it was terrific. It was scorching hot that week, about 105. I was dying, but it was great.”

What can you tell me about your cancer diagnosis?: It was October 5, 2023. It was right after I got back from San Diego. It was mind-blowing and a complete change in reality.

 

I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Four days later I had surgery for removal. That set me back for six weeks. I felt like I’d been shot in my stomach. I was down for six weeks and hoped everything would be fine afterward. Fortunately, the tumor was isolated and hadn’t spread. After about six weeks, my cancer cell counts were rising, and it was a very rare form of testicular cancer. We were going to Indianapolis every week. It was terrible, but I’m clear and ready to ball out this spring. 

 

I now have follow up appointments every two months. I just had my first follow-up appointment and everything looked great. It’s frightening every time I get blood work, but it’s looking great.”

 

You’ve signed to play at Western Michigan University. How did that materialize?: That was a quick process. 

 

(Julian’s Dad): I’m a strength and conditioning coach who trains many baseball athletes. That’s one of the reasons I find NPA so fascinating.   

 

Julian was playing for the Midwest Canes and garnered some interest, but there weren’t any offers. It was starting to get stressful. He was playing with kids committed to schools like Louisville and Tennessee. Julian began talking to the University of Michigan very heavily during his sophomore year. 

 

Still, I told him to make sure wherever it is that, you could go somewhere and play. We were in the facility where I work, and the guy who owns the building is tight with the Western Michigan coach. He told me the WMU coaches were coming down to check out the facility (Patriot Baseball in Kalamazoo) because they may want to rent it out. We were in there doing our thing and came in the staff. We had trained some kids who had played for Western.

The guy who owns the facility introduced me and told them that Julian is a pretty good ball player. He asked me for film of Julian and we had filmed a bullpen two days earlier so I sent him the video. He texted me two hours later and asked for Julian’s number. Julian talked to him that night and we had already planned to go to a Western baseball camp that Saturday. Billy (Gernon), the head coach, spoke to Julian, and Julian liked him. He invited Julian to a WMU hockey game with some baseball recruits the Friday night before camp, so this happened in only a few days.

I was going out of town to Chicago and couldn’t go with Julian because this came out of the blue. To make a long story short, Billy called me at about 6:30 that night and told me he wanted Julian and me to visit his office the following Tuesday. We went to the office on Tuesday and offered him a scholarship, which was a great offer. We left dumbfounded. From a selfish standpoint, Julian will be playing ten minutes down the road, and with the offer he gave him, he assured Julian that he would give him every opportunity to play. Julian went home, and I told him to think about it for 24 hours. I tried to play devil’s advocate, but he committed, and that was that.” 

(Julian) “I want to play as a freshman and thought I’d have the opportunity. I want to get on the field as a freshman and dominate. That’s the standard I’ve set for myself.”

What is the influence that Tom and the other NPA coaches have had on your development?: “My pitching coach, Greg Wright, his son had died, and (Robert) Ambrose came to see Greg and check in on him. Robert joined Greg and came to watch me pitch at the facility. I worked with Robert for about three hours and had a great time. I made a great connection with him. 

I’ve also learned so much from Tom. It’s almost a blur. The biggest thing that Tom teaches is the mental side. I’ve learned biomechanics, but the mental side is huge. I can trust Tom because he’s working with the best pitchers in the world. I see that and I’m absolutely bought in. Tom teaches consistency and how to be a step past my peers. It’s so much to digest, but it’s awesome.”

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