WEST PALM BEACH Fla. — A short memory and always look ahead.
It’s a trait most athletes have— a necessary ingredient for survival — as they try and achieve fleeting success. There’s always another season, another game to play.
As he begins Spring Training, the Nationals Bryce Harper says he quickly put last year’s playoff loss to the Dodgers in the rear view mirror.
“The day after, you’re going home, so you better get over it as quick as possible. You try to get by it, get past it,” Harper said.
That also goes personally for Harper’s 2016 season. Yes, he hit 24 homers with 86 RBIs, the second-best numbers he’s posted in his career. But, his .243 average was also his worst. And the season pales in comparison to his MVP year in 2015, when he batted .330 with 42-homers and 99 RBIs.
“That’s all last year. It’s what you go through and you build and you grow. It’s what have you done for me lately. It’s always been that way, I’ve always done that. You’re only as good as your last at-bat,” he said.
Harper is entering his sixth season, so it can be forgotten that he’s only 24. However, manager Dusty Baker doesn’t overlook that fact.
“Let’s face it, he’s way ahead of most guys (his age),” Baker said.
But, Baker also knows players of every age must evolve.
“You’re in the Big Leagues and these guys aren’t going to just let you keep beatin’ on them,” he said. “They’re going to make adjustments, and now it’s up to you to make counter adjustments. It’s part of growing up in the Big Leagues.”
Harper is growing up personally, getting married just two months after the season. But, Baker hopes his personality doesn’t change.
“I liked him from the beginning,” Baker said. “He’s a pretty cool little dude.”
Will that dude stay in D.C. when his contract expires after the 2018 season? Like most 24 year-olds, Harper can’t — or won’t — think that far ahead.
“Being a Washington National, I love it. I enjoy playing in the city of D.C. and I enjoy the fans and the organization so much. Mr. and Mrs. Lerner gave me an opportunity when I was 17 years old to play major league baseball,” Harper said. “I’m gonna play these next two years out, and, beyond that, I really don’t care. I just want to play these two years and have fun and hopefully win and do everything we can for the city of D.C. and bring that trophy back.”
It’s all about looking ahead — to the immediate future.
“I was over losing to the Dodgers the minute we lost,” he said. “It’s just part of the game, part of the process and hopefully we can do things differently this year.”
To start that process, the Nationals first full squad workout of 2017 is Sunday.
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