VIERA, Fla. — Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper sat down with WTOP’s Craig Heist to talk Twitter, teammates and his high expectations for the Nats’ upcoming season.
Craig Heist: This is your second spring training and I would assume this is a little bit of a different camp for you this year?
Harper: I think I’m a little more comfortable out there this year … feeling good out there. I know the guys pretty well. They’re a lot better this year. We’re talking and I am really getting to know the guys and see their point of view is on the game and what they do in the outfield, base running. I’m trying to keep an open ear to everything that everyone is saying. I am just coming out here to learn and try to get going.
Heist: Is that the biggest adjustment for you this year, just trying to gather as much information as you can from these guys?
Harper: Yeah, I tried that last year too, but they were so far ahead of me and I finally understood that once I got to minor league camp. Coming up this year and just taking as much stuff as I can from Ankiel, Werth and Zim, all the guys out there. They know the game so well and I just try to keep an open ear and really take it in and really concentrate on things and try to get better every day.
Heist: You haven’t started playing games yet but they start this weekend. I know you are looking forward to that because I know you want to try and impress and make this team.
Harper: Absolutely, I want to make that decision as hard as I can for them. I can’t wait to start playing games and getting out there and being around the other guys and being around the other teams and trying to win some ballgames. I want to start the year out strong and get going.
Heist: Anyone who has been around you knows what kind of a confident person you are. You let that be seen. What’s the difference between confident and cocky? Or is there a difference?
Harper: Everyone says there is a difference, but I don’t know what the difference is. You got to be confident, you have to be cocky and you have to have that swagger when you play the game of baseball. That guy on the bump wants to strike you out every single time and you want to get a hit off him every single time.
He’s cocky when he’s out there on the bump and I am cocky when I am in there trying to hit. I am trying to get hits every single day and help my ballclub win and I think every ball player that goes out on the field has a chip and is a little cocky, so you got to.
Heist: You have had some things go on with Twitter that have rubbed some people the wrong way. Redskins talk, Cowboys, Yankees. How do you balance that and how do you keep that under control a little bit?
Harper: Got to play. You got to perform on the field. If I perform on the field then some things I want to do off the field is probably like the movies and things like that — but I got to perform, I understand that. I like to interact with my fans and I think that’s huge to have a fan base and the fans like you and that’s good for you, the program and the team. I just feel like if I perform well on the field and I have fans and stuff, you’ll be a loved baseball player.
Heist: The fact you are a confident guy — do you think that’s one of the reasons Davey Johnson is in your corner?
Harper: I’m not sure. Like I said, I play 110 percent all the time and that’s what you are going to get from me. I think that’s one big thing this organization has. They preach going hard every single day and I have been doing that my whole life. My dad taught me to play hard and play hard every single day cause there might be a little kid out here who is seeing you play for the first time.
I think that’s a quote by Joe DiMaggio, by the way, but if there is a little kid watching you for the first time and you hit a ground ball to second and you jog down to first, they are going to say, ‘well, he did it, so I am going to do it.’ I don’t want that. I want to hustle every time and I am going to bust my butt and I am going to give you 100 percent every day.
Heist: You came into the clubhouse on Saturday and the name overtop of you locker was not Bryce Harper, but rather it said, “Joe Namath, Number 12.” Was there a message from your teammates there?
Harper: It was just guys messing around and having a little fun, but with a message on the side of it. I’m going to take that and wear it because last year I wore it too. You know, a little rookie hazing.
Heist: I know you want to make the decision a hard one for them. What would it mean for Bryce Harper to make this team and head north with this team out of spring training?
Harper: Oh man, it would be a dream come true. I’d be very excited to go up there but the thing is, I want to stay there. I want to stay, I want to play hard. I want to stay there for five, six, seven, eight, nine or 10 years and I want to perform for us and get us to the World Series. I think that’s the biggest thing. We have a great organization and some great guys coming up, a young team but also a veteran team at the same time, so I’m really excited to see what happens in the next couple of years.
Hopefully, I can go north and I won’t have to talk to you about going down this year.
Heist: Not wanting to fail, you are your toughest critic. How much do you think that helps you?
Harper: It’s huge. I don’t want to fail at all. I’m a perfectionist. I have always been a perfectionist in my game. I want to get better and I’m going to work hard every day. That means hitting the weight room, hitting in the cage, hitting on the field, outfield stuff and base running. I want to take control of my game and get better at everything I need to do. I want to be perfect and that’s what you’re going to get out of me.
Heist: What it mean to have Ryan Zimmerman locked up now, long term?
Heist: It’s unbelievable. If he wouldn’t have been locked up, it takes a big bat out of our lineup and a big part of our organization out so it would have been weird. It’s very good for him to get that and I’m really excited for him and hopefully we can get going.