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Harper signed a five-year, $9.9 million contract with the Nationals, a record for a non-pitcher signed out of the draft who had not become a free agent.

“I’m just going to push him, but at the same time keep my arms around him,” Beasley said. “He’s 19. As grown a man as he may look on the outside, he’s still a young kid on the inside, and I have to be mindful of that and protect him as much as I can, teach him and nurture him at the same time. We’ll see how he adjusts to this level of baseball.”

So far, Harper’s play has been pretty good as a pro. Last year, he played in 109 minor league games before a hamstring injury in August ended his season. He finished with a .297 average, 17 homers and 58 RBIs in 387 at-bats.

“He’s got a great attitude, loves to work hard. I’ve just seen him mature,” said Chiefs infielder Tyler Moore, who played with Harper in Harrisburg last season. “He’s a great person, plays the game hard, a great teammate.”

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Harper will have to convince the Nationals he’s ready for major league pitching. In spring training, he missed time with a calf injury and struck out 11 times in 28 at-bats.

“I was a little out of whack in big league spring training with my swing, my hands,” Harper said. “I think the best thing was me getting sent down to Triple A and really getting on that grind every day of playing, get my routine back. I was trying to do too much.”

Harper is the second No. 1 pick of the Nationals to play in Syracuse, following hard-throwing right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who created a big-time buzz in his brief stay here.

A franchise-record crowd of 13,777 turned out for Strasburg’s debut in Syracuse nearly two years ago, a month before the Nationals inked Harper. In two of his International League starts at home for the Chiefs, the Nationals’ top minor-league affiliate, Strasburg attracted the biggest baseball crowds in the history of this city _ including 13,766 for his debut.

On this day, an announced crowd of 6,178 souls braved the raw, early spring day, and few were left when it ended.