Bryce Harper, perhaps this generations most celebrated amateur baseball player and biggest minor league prospect is trying to become the Washington Nationals opening day starting right fielder. There are plenty of financial reasons for the Nationals to have him not start the season with the big club, but manager Davey Johnson insists that he’s giving Harper every chance to grab the spot.
At 16-years old Harper was on the on the cover of Sports Illustrated. By the time he was 18 he was the number one pick in the nation and had signed a $9.9 million contract. By all accounts this kid has been spoiled and wooed since he was 9-years old because of his baseball playing prowess. Since signing a major league contract, he’s been described as walking around with a chip on his shoulder by some, conceded by others. You mat recall last season in the minors, after hitting a home run off of Greensboro pitcher Zachary Neal, Harper blew a kiss to the pitcher after rounding third base. Cocky? Perhaps, but Harper was hit by a pitch on the inside of his left knee and had to leave the game the day before, and I’m sure that has something to do with it. I don’t know about you, but I like it with a player has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. As long as he’s a team player, I have no problem with a guy who wants the bat in his hands or wants the ball hit him with the game on the line.
After watching the Nationals play the New York Mets this past Monday, my perception of this kid is anything but how he’s been depicted in the press. Harper hit a routine chopper to third base and proceeded to bust his butt, beating out the throw. My first thought was, “wholly crap this kid can move.” My second thought was, “that’s not the player who he’s been portrayed to be.” That wasn’t the kid who felt that he was entitled to something because of his amateur success.
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Harper has been lauded for his ability to hit the baseball, and while I heard he could run, no one I know suggested that he could run like that. The sky seems to truly be the limit for this kid if he can keep his head on straight. Here’s to hoping that happens because the nation is ready for another Mickey Mantle…
Barry Bonds could have been that guy, but there were those PEDs. Alex Rodriguez could have been that guy too, but same problem, PEDs. Ken Griffey Jr. had it all and would have been that guy, and while he’s a sure shot first ballot HOFer, injuries kept him from reaching true baseball immortality. Josh Hamilton could have been that guy, but off the field deamons prevented that. Albert Pujols has a chance to be that guy, but unfortunately he’ll never be viewed by the American public as that “All-American” guy, he just won’t.
Because of his age and the hype he comes to the big show with, Bryce Harper has a chance to be that guy. He has all the tools to be not only successful on the field, but to have both the American public and the corporate world embrace him. These type of stories usually don’t end well, hopefully this one does. The game of MLB can use a good clean larger than life success story in the worst way.