The Nationals No. 1 overall selection Bryce Harper was introduced for the first time at Nats Park to the media, 10 days after he agreed to a nearly 10 million dollar deal to sign with the Nats. Flanked by his family, Harper talked about his dreams of becoming a Major Leaguer.
After hitting 12 homers during early batting practice, Harper was asked where he learned his swing. Harper credited his hitting mechanics to his dad, Ron Harper.
"My dad, he has been huge in everything I have done. He is absolutely incredible with my swing and he knows it better than anybody. So to have him around and have him help me with it after games (was big). He taught me my whole swing."
Ron says Bryce has always been very competitive at the plate, always looking for that big base hit.
"He is a team player. If he doesn't go 4-for-4 he feels likes he didn't help his team. If he goes 3-4 and comes up with a man on second and doesn't get the job done, he is more mad at himself. He is so hard on himself to a fault sometimes. He always wants to do better."
Ron feels moving up to the College of Southern Nevada was the best decision that could have been made because Bryce was just getting walked (84 times in two years) against high school pitching.
"It was unbelievable. The wood bat was huge. Having a wood bat in his hands the all year long really helped. The competition was better than people know. We saw guys throwing 90-plus every weekend. A lot of them got Division I scholarships and got drafted too. He wouldn't have seen that in high school."
Even though Bryce played catcher his entire career, the Nats want him to play in the outfield. Ron says Bryce does have experience playing center field.
"The reads are different in the corner outfield positions. I know because I played center field. He is going to have to make those adjustments. It will take some time."
There were several team records and accolades earned for Bryce in his one season in junior college. But a few times, Harper's character was called into question. A taunt here, a thrown bat there, and suddenly this 17-year old was immature and a "bad apple".
His last play in the collegiate ranks was an ejection at the JUCO World Series in Colorado in early June when he was tossed by the home plate umpire for drawing a line in the dirt with his bat to show where he thought a pitch had gone on a called third strike.
Since he had been dismissed from an earlier regular season game, by rule, he was suspended for two games. His team lost the next game and was eliminated.
Ron says Bryce was devastated.
"I think he felt really bad. He felt like he let his team down. It is unfortunate it happened. He shouldn't have done it. I told him he has to learn from these things. And he did.
"The pain of having to sit there and listen to his team play on the radio because he couldn't go was probably the biggest torture of all.
"It had to kill him. He called me up and said, 'it's rough, this is rough, Pop'. He is mature kid. He can admit he made a mistake."
The education of Bryce Harper continues in pro baseball early September in Florida as a member of the Washington Nationals.