Recently announced as a fill-in for the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, Bryce Harper joined Holden and Danny Monday to share what it means to him to be named an All-Star at the ripe young age of 19 and address some controversies that have surrounded him in the first half of the season.
Bryce Harper started off by saying he didn’t find out he was going to be a part of the All-Star festivities in Kansas City until after the game against the Rockies Saturday. Harper, who many thought wouldn’t be called up to the Nationals until around this time, said he never had expectations of being an All-Star his rookie season.
Often attributed to arrogant interviews he’s done as far back as two and three years ago, or showboating he’s done in the Minor Leagues, many view the young Harper as having a target on his back in the eyes of Major League pitchers. When asked by Danny Rouhier how he handles that added pressure at the plate, Bryce’s responses lent to him being as unflappable as a 10-year veteran.
“There are guys that come at me and there’s guys that throw a lot of offspeed. You just try to take one at bat at a time, one pitch at a time and live in that moment. Not get too high. Not get too low. Stay as even-keel as you can.”
The number 1 pick in the 2010 MLB Draft has seen himself go from child-prodigy, to real-life everyday talent over the last few months, something very real and tangible, as opposed to quotes in block lettering on the cover of Sports Illustrated. So how has the transition been from prospect to player with cameras in his face every day?
“I don’t think it’s changed at all. Me and Delino DeShields Jr. were always in the spotlight growing up. So I think growing up at those tournaments really got me ready for media, and being on the front of Sports Illustrated. It’s a game that I love to play,and I don’t think that’s ever going to leave me. I still got that little kid in me, that desire to have fun and play the game of baseball every day and give the best I can for D.C. and these fans.”
So it’s not unfathomable to think that he’s had to make some adjustments walking around town.
“D.C. fans are so good. They just come up to me and they’re so nice and so polite. ‘Hey, I hope you have a great career…how you doing…everything’s good?’ That’s pretty much where they leave it at. I think that’s great. I them not going over the top with things and coming up to me and trying to talk to me for 10 minutes. I love doing that. I love shaking hands and trying to be as polite as I can. I could never get sick of that.”
It seemed Harper was trying to play things close to the vest, but when asked if there were any highlights that surprised him through all the other fanfare, Bryce just couldn’t resist the opportunity to pump himself up a bit. And why should he?
“Maybe the walk-off or maybe…maybe I shouldn’t say this but hitting a Home Run off Jonny Venters. I was pretty shocked by that. I think I got kind of luck. I don’t know, I think that was one of the good moments, of hitting a lefty; a left like THAT.”
The aforementioned Jonny Venters is one of the most elite left-handed pitchers in all of baseball, who, before the Home Run to Harper during Memorial Day Weekend, had only given up two other home runs to left-handed hitters…in his entire career.
Harper brought up another very memorable moment from this year as his most enjoyable; one that is perhaps even more memorable and perhaps infamous at this point to Phillies fans. Harper says stealing home against Cole Hamels after being plunked by the pitcher (who admitted he hit him intentionally after the game) was probably his favorite highlight up to this point in the season. You could hear Harper smiling as he said the words, perhaps the first glimpse at his enjoyment of that seminal moment since the episode occurred.
“That thing against Cole Hamels was pretty much a perfect storm. He hit me and I just took it and just wore as best as I could. You know, me, Werth and Bo (Porter) before the game were looking at some video and trying to think, ‘If I get on 3rd base, what can we do to steal home against Cole?’ With (Lance) Nix at first base, he’s a lefty so he’s turned all the way around.”
Bryce Harper is truly embracing Washington D.C. as his home. And the more time he spends here, he’ll find it has embrace him back.