Nationals number one draft selection Bryce Harper has confirmed that he will play in the Arizona Fall League and will report to the Scottsdale Scorpions on Sunday night.
Harper will be on the team’s taxi squad and play in Wednesday and Saturday games.
“I am stoked. I am so excited,” Harper said. “It has been a goal of mine to be able play in the Arizona Fall league.”
Harper will spend time at home this weekend in Las Vegas with his family to celebrate his 18th birthday on Saturday, and then he’ll head for Scottsdale Sunday.
Nationals player development director Doug Harris called Harper into his office Sunday and at first jokingly told Bryce he was going to play in the Dominican for four weeks.
After Harper said, “Wow, really!?”, Harris told him he was kidding and instead said the team would send Harper to the Arizona Fall league.
Harper feels he is ready for this next step after hitting against top prospects in the instructional league and was thrilled to get the call to play in Arizona.
“I just wanted to keep playing baseball. I was thinking maybe Team USA if I wasn’t going to do Arizona. So, when I found out I was going to get to play AFL, I was really happy.”
While at instructs, Harper worked extensively with coach Tony Tarasco in the outfield on running routes to the ball and tracking high flyball outs.
“He helped me so much with things I needed to learn in the outfield. It was like riding a bike for the first time and taking the training wheels off - a great experience. I learned a lot.”
Harper remembers those first few at bats against Atlanta’s top pitcher.
“The Braves’ Julio Teheran was very tough. He was incredible. It was a great challenge to go in and face that kind of pitcher.”
Harper says he was boosted when Michael Burgess, Steve Lombardozzi and Derek Norris joined the camp, and knew he had to step it up at the plate.
“I really picked up my game when those guys came down to Florida. I said to myself, ‘Okay, let’s go.’ It really helped me to see them there. I got my game going and got in a groove by making some small adjustments to my swing. I did pretty well.”
All three fellow prospects will be alongside Harper as he embarks on the next step in his baseball career, an invitation to play in Arizona.