Harvey's father helped him grow as player and person
A longtime coach, Ed Harvey thrilled to see his son succeed in Majors
NEW YORK -- From his vantage point, Ed Harvey had a clear view of his son's pregame bullpen session early last month. Matt's mechanics were flawless. His fastball popped. His slider featured plenty of depth.
"Uh-oh," Ed thought. "They're in trouble."
"They" were the White Sox, and though they did not know it yet, the longtime high school coach's assessment was correct; Harvey was indeed exquisite that night at Citi Field, settling for a one-hitter after threatening for most of the night to pitch a perfect game. Watching from the stands with his wife, Jackie, Ed somehow grew more comfortable as the game progressed.
"In the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh inning, I was like, 'All right, this is cool to watch,'" he said. "He was just pounding it every inning, every pitch."
Even now, six years after he last coached his son at Fitch High School in Groton, Conn., Ed still views Matt's outings with an instructor's discerning eye. In Matt's words, the pair's relationship has evolved from a father-son bond to something more akin to friendship, yet Ed Harvey fumbles over words when discussing his son's sudden big league success.
It is easier for him to talk about Harvey as a coach, because coaching is in his blood. For more than a quarter-century before Matt was born, the elder Harvey attended clinics, read books and did everything he could to become well-versed in the art of pitching. He took what he liked, discarded the rest and developed his own personal philosophy on mechanics -- even graduating one pupil to a brief career in the big leagues.
"By the time Matt came along, I already had a pretty good idea of what a pitcher should work on and focus on," Ed Harvey said. "And then when he was young, he had a desire to pitch at a pretty young age."
Typically, Ed Harvey returned home from Fitch practices by 7 p.m. If it was still light out, his son would immediately begin pestering him to head to the backyard.
"I never pushed Matt," Ed Harvey said. "I never had to. I never told him, 'Let's go, you need to throw,' or something like that. It was always him dragging me out."
In that fashion, the Harveys became a team, with father and son both invested heavily in Matt's success. They leaned on each other when Harvey decided not to sign with the Angels out of high school in 2007, attending the University of North Carolina instead. They rejoiced together when the Mets picked Harvey even higher in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, vindicating that gamble, and they maintained their player-coach relationship as Harvey rocketed through the Minors.
"Obviously having a teacher like that and a coach like that, how could it not be great?" Harvey said. "Everything he's ever taught me I've always listened, I've always kept my ears open. To this day he's still learning about me, about everything. If I'm doing something wrong, I'll call him and say, 'You've been watching me for 24 years, what did I do wrong?'"
The intensity that Harvey displays on the mound? Ed Harvey has always seen it, though it has not always manifested itself in the same way.
When Matt wanted something as a child -- a certain toy, for example -- he would beg and plead and ask about it every day, until his parents either relented or told him "a flat no." Ed Harvey recalls a time when Matt was about 15 and desperately wanted a newer, smaller, "cooler" baseball glove -- an infielder's model that he considered a fashion statement. For weeks Harvey pestered him, until Ed finally went to the store and bought it.
"It was tiny, it was a Mizuno," Matt Harvey recalled, laughing. "I remember I used it the first time -- I think I was playing shortstop in the game, I went to cover second, and the ball, it literally just went right off my glove. I went in, threw the glove down, never used it again."
"I think it's still in my basement somewhere," Ed Harvey said.
Naturally, there were times when the parent-coach relationship blurred. But Harvey believes his independence at a young age helped him forge bonds with his father on a different level.
"When we're on the field, it's baseball," Harvey said. "When we're fishing, it's fishing. Over the years, we've become more friends than anything. It's not even so much of a father-son thing anymore, it's more of like us just hanging out and being friends."
Ed Harvey does still watch with an instructor's critical eye when his son takes the mound, critiquing his mechanics, privately rooting for him to "stay focused, keep what you're doing and don't too high, don't get too low."
But as a parent?
"Oh, it's awful watching, to tell you the truth," he said. "Whether I'm in the stadium or at home, every pitch my wife and I are looking at each other, feeling like we're going to throw up."
He laughed, admitting that Harvey's success has been "pretty amazing -- well beyond what we thought would happen."
"I'm proud of what he's doing, obviously, and excited for the future and excited for what he's doing now. I just enjoy watching him, like a lot of people. Especially when he's on, it's real fun."