- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 10, 2011

PHOENIX — Everything about the journey to get to the Futures Game on Sunday has been different for Double-A Harrisburg teammates Bryce Harper and Brad Peacock.

One, a No. 1 overall pick and veritable All-World prospect, arrived with more fanfare than just about anyone before him. He flew out two days early to participate in charity events at the request of Major League Baseball, spent Saturday night having dinner with his family and former Los Angeles Dodgers great Steve Garvey and was followed around Chase Field all afternoon Sunday by camera crews.

The other, at 23 an elder statesman compared to his 18-year-old teammate, went about his business in relative anonymity. The former 41st-round pick flew to Phoenix in a middle seat Saturday, expected to fly out at 6 a.m. Monday and took in the scene at the ballpark with the wide eyes of a player still trying to come to grips with his good fortune.

Bryce, his personality welcomes this,” said Harrisburg manager Tony Beasley, who served as a coach on the USA team. “He’s not afraid of this at all. I think that’s one of the reasons he’s able to be successful, because he doesn’t get nervous if there’s 10,000 people watching. He thrives.

“He’s had to deal with it and Peacock hasn’t. Peacock, he’s kind of to himself … a reserved individual. But when he gets on that mound, you’ll see a different demeanor.”

There never was a question of whether Harper would be involved in this game. He wowed the crowd in batting practice, giving everyone what they came to see when he sent several balls outside the borders of the field. Cameras flashed, people chased after the balls he sent into the stands, or the pool ,or the luxury club areas. They clamored for his autograph, screaming at him as Bryce or even Mr. Harper.

He went about his business unfazed by the attention, though he struck out in his first at-bat against Atlanta’s Julio Teheran and grounded out on the first pitch from Seattle’s James Paxton in his second plate appearance.

“This is huge,” he said, though his tone indicated a calm that would seem impossible to most on this stage. “To be able to come out here and play on All-Star weekend, it’s a blast. It’s always been one of my dreams just to come out here and celebrate with my family, be with the guys that I’m with and just have fun.”

Peacock, who has worked to improve his deception and seen immediate results with a 10-2 record, 2.01 ERA and 129 strikeouts to just 23 walks, shagged flies in the outfield and stretched with other pitchers.

“This is my first All-Star team I’ve made in my career,” Peacock said with a smile, though he’ll head out of town early Monday to hustle to the second one he made, the Eastern League team.

He was so surprised to have made the Futures Game team that when Washington Nationals director of player development Doug Harris called with the news, he first told the right-hander he was heading back to Florida in an effort to limit his innings — and for a moment, Peacock believed him.

“I was like yeah, right,” Peacock said. “And he said, ‘Nah, I’m just kidding, actually you’re in the Futures Game’ … It gives you confidence [when you’re recognized]. That’s what you need to pitch. I have a lot of confidence right now. I feel great. It’s going great. I like that they’re noticing me.”

His moment in the spotlight Sunday came in the second inning when he needed just nine pitches to retire the side, striking out the first batter, St. Louis’ Alfredo Silverio, on a fastball up and in. He picked up a first-pitch groundout from Boston’s Chih-Hsien Chiang and then showed off his curveball and his change to get Colorado’s Wilin Rosario to pop out.

“He’s been oustanding,” Beasley said. “Anything you could want for a 23-year-old to have, he has it. I couldn’t be more happy with him. If I had more guys like Peacock, we’d be in really good shape. … The fact that he was drafted late, that’s awesome. That’s what baseball is all about. That sends a message to everyone in the organization that if you play well, you have an opportunity.”