Harper squares off against the pinstripes

Nationals first-round pick Lucas Giolito is at Nats Park for the second straight day, talking with team officials and watching the Nats take batting practice from behind the cage.

The 16th overall pick out of Harvard-Westlake School (Calif.) was at Ryan Zimmerman’s charity event at the stadium last night, but today, the 6-foot-6, 230-lb. right-hander is getting an up-close look at the Nats players in action. He spent time talking with general manager Mike Rizzo and owner Mark Lerner (towering over both of them in the process), and has been snapping pictures of BP from his camera phone.

You hear that Giolito is big, but when you see him in person, his size is striking... especially when you then remember his age. The 17-year-old has committed to UCLA, but the Nats will make their best effort to sign him before the July 13 deadline. Having Giolito out to take part in today’s pregame festivities is one step in that process.

Most of you are probably well aware of the fact that Bryce Harper grew up a Yankees fan. He wears No. 34 because the two digits add up to the number formerly worn by one of his favorite players, Mickey Mantle.

Starting today, Harper will get to oppose the team he spent his childhood rooting for. He’ll look out over the diamond and see Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, and tomorrow, he’ll face Andy Pettitte.

“It’s exciting,” Harper said. “They’re in first place, we’re in first place and it’s going to be a good weekend. I’m just excited to get in here and play a good team like this, and hopefully we can keep on our roll.

“Growing up watching these guys, and especially against the Red Sox also. ... It’s a lot of fun coming in here and playing those kind of guys, Hall of Fame-caliber guys. It’s just a blessing to be out here playing these guys.”

Because of his previous allegiances to the Yankees, there’s been speculation that Harper could eventually end up playing for the Yankees some day. (After all, the best players just have to end up in pinstripes, right?)

It would be a number of years before he’d get that opportunity, however, as the Nationals hold Harper’s rights until after the 2018 season. And for now, Harper seems plenty comfortable in D.C. and is enjoying his experience playing in the nation’s capital.

“It’s home to me,” Harper said. “It’s a lot of fun playing here every single day. We’ve got great fans, great staff and a great system, and it’s a lot of fun coming in here with a lot of hype and everything like that.”

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