VIERA, Fla. — The nameplate above Bryce Harper’s locker stall inside the clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium looked a little different on Saturday. Greeting the Washington Nationals’ gregarious outfielder was a new placard. This one reading: “Joe Namath 12.”
Once he realized, Harper took out his phone and snapped a photo, a pretty big smile plastered to his face.
Across the clubhouse, one veteran hollered out to no one particular, “Hey, Broadway Joe!”
The name tag, a joke pulled on the 19-year-old in reference to Harper saying he’d like emulate Namath in an offseason interview with MLB.com, was the work of one of Harper’s veteran teammates, though no one would fess up to who the culprit was.
Harper didn’t seem to mind one bit — in fact, it may be one of the best signs of spring for him that his teammates are doing things like that and treating him no different than, say, Michael Morse, who was welcomed to spring training with one of his glamour shots from the magazine Athletes Quarterly posted up on his locker.
As for his on-field performance, Nationals manager Davey Johnson hasn’t seen him take batting practice or anything yet this season but he said earlier this week that his coaches “aren’t telling him” how good Harper looks because they want the manager to see him for himself.
Johnson, however, probably won’t be surprised either way.
“I talked to him when he was 15,” Johnson said. “He was cocky then and he’s cocky now.”
He’ll get his chance to see Harper in action on Sunday when the team ramps up for live batting practice. If the schedule that was posted inside the clubhouse on Saturday holds true, we should see him face Stephen Strasburg for the first time.