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Nationals ready to start Harper’s countdown to superstardom
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There’s a video on the Internet of Bryce Harper.
Well, to be accurate, there are hundreds of thousands of videos of the most hyped power-hitting prospect in a generation. Some are favorable, others less so, but all chronicle nearly every move the Washington Nationals’ prized minor leaguer makes.
When it comes to being Bryce Harper - the 19-year-old most people seemingly love to hate, but love to watch play even more - a cellphone video camera is never far away.
The attention, director of player development Doug Harris said, is “significant.” Many people call him unspeakable things and hope for him to fail - perhaps because they’ve been watching him perform superhuman acts since before he was old enough to drive.
One talent evaluator watching the Arizona Fall League, where Harper is playing his second season, opined that he might be largely misunderstood - a player vilified for playing the game hard on every play in a time when that’s no longer the norm for every player. Even in the outfield, where he played exclusively this year for the first time, he rarely gets bored because “fans keep me in it and opposing bullpens keep me in it.”
But he’d be lying if he said he didn’t revel in it.
“I can’t say I don’t like the attention. I like it,” Harper said. “It comes with the territory. If people are talking about you, you must be good. If they weren’t talking about me, I’d be pretty [ticked] off.”
Awaiting his arrival
Ideally what they’ll be talking about next year is when the Nationals will be calling Harper up to the majors, though everyone in the organization declines to estimate when - if at all - it might happen.
He played 109 minor league games this season, 72 with Single-A Hagerstown and 37 with Double-A Harrisburg - all with the eyes of a franchise watching intently.
“I don’t really care what’s going on up in the big leagues,” Harper said, admitting if he did he might have to combat some frustrations that he wasn’t already there. “[I’m] in Harrisburg. [I’m] in Hagerstown. My head can’t be in Washington. It’s got to be in Hagerstown or Harrisburg. I keep my head out of that. I don’t really care. … Seeing those guys do good up there, I think that’s huge. We’ve got a lot of young talent coming up, [and] I’m excited to see what happens in the near future.”
How near, though, is the one question everyone wants answered.
“It would not surprise me if somehow he was in the big leagues next year at some point,” said Paul Menhart, the pitching coach for Single-A Potomac this past season and the Nationals’ representative on the Scottsdale Scorpions’ coaching staff. “He’s got all the tools that are necessary. He just needs the experience and the reps right now for the powers that be to really think that he’s ready. Right now, he’s well on his way.”
Room for improvement
So what’s left to get him there?
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About the Author
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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