WASHINGTON – He came to Nationals Park ready to make his Washington, D.C. debut in front of a throng of media and television cameras. And Bryce Harper was confident, displaying the same bravado that he has displayed throughout his college and now his young professional career.
In fact, when walking around and seeing some of the historic sites Washington has to offer, he stopped along the way to take a few swings with some fans playing softball down off the mall.
“I was walking around a little bit checking out all the stuff, the 19-year old said. “I hadn’t seen the Lincoln Memorial before so I went over there and was checking that out. I was just walking through and they ask me to take a few hacks and I was like, “Nah, I don’t know about that,” and they said, “Ah come on,” so I said okay and I just hung out and talked to the fans a little bit.”
Everyone wants a piece of Bryce Harper. He is the most highly touted prospect to come to the big leagues with this much hype and attention paid to him since Alex Rodriguez or Ken Griffey Jr.
“It’s a blessing I can tell you that,” Harper said of all the attention he has received. “I love being out here and I love playing and I wouldn’t change anything that’s happening right now. I love the game of baseball and I’m going to come out here and give 110 percent and try and be a game changer and try to play the game I love.”
Harper is with the big club sooner than he thought he would be and certainly sooner than the Nationals had envisioned. The Nats enter this homestand riding a four-game losing streak and struggling offensively, hitting just .223 as a team.
Harper was promoted when Ryan Zimmerman went on the DL with inflammation in his right shoulder, despite hitting just .250 with one home run and three RBI with Triple-A Syracuse in 20 games. That was followed the next day by the addition of Tyler Moore when it was announced Mark DeRosa was headed to the DL with an abdominal strain.
Moore was hitting .286 with seven homers and 20 RBI so Davey Johnson is looking to jumpstart his struggling offense. Harper doesn’t see it that way.
“Our record looks pretty good right now so I don’t think we have to change anything right now,” he said. “We are having a lot of fun inside the clubhouse and in the dugout. We have a great pitching staff and T-Mo, congratulations on his first hit — he’s a great ballplayer and can swing it really well and has some pop in his bat that everyone knows.
But I’m happy I am up here. That’s huge for me and this whole team.”
As for the state of the offense and his bat being in the lineup, Harper says he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to do more than what he is capable of doing.
“I don’t think I have to prove anything,” he said. “You know, Zimm is coming off the DL at the end of the week or sometime next week and hopefully he gets going and he’s a great ballplayer, so to get him back in the lineup would be huge for this team. We have a great lineup and if you add Zimm back in it, that would be huge.”
The home debut is something he looks forward to as well.
“I think this is huge … hopefully I can calm down and we get going tonight,” he said.