He is in three commercials, headlining Under Armour’s new #IWILL campaign and starring in a regional Toyota ad and a Geico spot.
Named the National League Rookie of the Year in November, Harper appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in January and visited “Rob Dyrdek’s Fun Factory” the same week. He was the Major League Baseball representative at the International Consumer Electronics Show for the announcement that T-Mobile had become the league’s wireless sponsor.
He also was one of seven major league stars selected to be part of a fan vote for the cover of Sony’s “MLB 13: The Show,” though Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates took home the honors.
Got all that?
“He’s young,” said Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche. “You can’t [do all that] forever. I think for a few years he’s fine with it. Slowly, he’ll learn how to say no. Right now, he’s got the energy. But that’s a big part of what we do. We kind of help him sift through some of that: what’s important, and what you just need to learn to say ‘No’ to.”
Harper is upfront about the way he feels when it comes to the attention. He enjoys it and understands why it’s on him. He also has become better at deflecting the hatred spewed his way.
“I don’t know if they hate him because he’s really good, or if they hate him because they want to be where he’s at,” said Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “Not many people celebrate excellence as much as they used to. Nowadays, it’s more [jealousy].
“But Bryce was not given any of this. He worked for everything. That’s the way it is. He knows that. We all know that. I think he’s gotten better at shrugging that stuff off and not letting it get to him.”
On the Nationals’ first off day this spring, Harper made the 67-mile drive west from Viera, Fla., to Disney World. He never goes unrecognized when he is out in the District; people are usually exceedingly nice and often apologetic for bothering him.
So when a boy no more than 14 or 15 approached him at the Magic Kingdom and asked for a photo, Harper obliged and threw his arm around the teen’s shoulder.
“I’m a Braves fan,” the boy said to Harper. “[Expletive] the Nationals.”
“My face in the picture is probably like [so confused],” Harper said, chuckling as he told the story. “I was thinking, ‘What? You just said that to me and you’re taking a picture with me?’ I was dumbfounded. I walked away and I go, ‘I don’t know what just happened right there. Happiest place on Earth.’”
But Harper understands the responsibility that comes with his exposure. Each day this spring, he spent time after batting practice, home or away, signing autographs for the fans who line up three and four rows deep. He does the same during the season, making sure he always signs for children, even if it’s at the expense of waiting adults who often have motives.
A cursory eBay search reveals more than 200 items of Bryce Harper autographed merchandise going for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars.
“It matters to him that he doesn’t leave a little boy standing there who wanted an autograph,” said Harolyn Cardozo, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo’s special assistant.