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Bryce Harper leads one-day baseball camp for area kids

Thursday - 8/16/2012, 5:04pm  ET

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Bryce Harper told reporters that this camp, held on his only day off in the midst of a rough schedule, lets him show kids how to love the game. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
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Dick Uliano, wtop.com

FAIRFAX, Va. - "This is one of the best days of my life!" declared 10-year-old Matthew Chestnut of Sterling, Va., as he jogged to the sideline after slugging a base hit to center field.

His teammate, 9-year-old Solomon Redo of D.C., was also giddy with joy.

"Today has just been a dream come true," Redo said. "It's just awesome to be here."

Chestnut and Redo were among 220 boys and girls, ages 6 to 14, who played baseball today with the biggest kid in the major leagues - the 19-year-old Washington Nationals rookie sensation Bryce Harper.

Harper conducted a one-day free baseball camp at Fairfax High School.

Carson Rick, a rising 5th grader in Fairfax County, explained that he lives "just up the street" and couldn't believe he was standing on the same ground as the Nats All Star.

"It's amazing," he said, "Bryce Harper, superstar outfielder, is here, at the high school my brother may end up going to!"

On Harper's only day off, between a grueling 13-day road trip and tomorrow's opening three-game series at Nationals Park against the New York Mets, the rookie outfielder taught the fundamentals of hitting, catching and base-running.

"I love doing things like this," Harper told a gaggle of reporters. "I think it's huge for kids to see that we're just like normal people, playing the game that we love to play."

Kids from area Boys and Girls clubs were invited to the camp. Besides underwriting the costs of the one-day camp, Harper also wrote a $3,500 check to the Washington area Urban League.

Harper's key advice to the youngsters is to have fun.

"That's the biggest thing," he said. "Even now, I tell myself that. Have fun doing the things you know how to do - that's playing baseball."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)