Sometimes, the winners of various Major League Baseball awards are notified before the announcement is made publicly, giving them a chance to soak in the moment and share the news with their family and friends.
Not tonight. Bryce Harper had no idea he’d won the National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award until he heard his name live on MLB Network. Harper learned the news just like the rest of us, except he had a camera on him to document his reaction and an earpiece in to allow for a live interview immediately after the announcement.
“I was sitting in the chair and my heart was beating a little bit,” Harper said on a conference call tonight. “I think it was just a great moment for me and my family and everybody around. I think it was a great moment for D.C. It was fun to be able to see that and enjoy that and bring that in.”
Tonight, Harper became the youngest position player to ever win Rookie of the Year, capping off a special season. As a 19-year-old, Harper batted .270 with 98 runs scored, 22 home runs, 59 RBIs, 18 stolen bases and an .817 OPS. In a very close vote, he beat out fellow finalists Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley and Reds infielder Todd Frazier for the award.
Despite the individual recognition he received tonight, Harper has larger goals in mind for the future.
“This is a great award and I’m so excited and proud of it, but my biggest thing is I want to win a World Series,” Harper said. “I want to put that ring on my finger, and I want to give that to the city of D.C. They deserve that. I think our organization deserves that. That’s what my biggest goal is.”
Harper spent the first three weeks of the season down at Triple-A Syracuse after failing to make the big league club out of spring training. He battled the cold weather and some initial disappointment that he wasn’t in the majors, but knew “it was only a moment in time until I got to the big leagues.”
Once he joined the Nationals on April 28, it was immediately clear that he belonged.
“I think this year was a lot of fun, and I just had a great group of guys around me,” Harper said. “They made it the way I wanted it. Just to be able to go in there and win ballgames and come in and try and be a game-changer for them and just try to be the guy that can come in and play the game hard and the right way and get the fans of D.C. excited. That was my main goal, to try and win a World Series. That didn’t happen this year, but hopefully I can come in and we can do the same thing and really play hard and really try to succeed out there.”
Harper started fast, winning the NL Rookie of the Month in May after hitting .271 with four homers, 10 RBIs, five doubles and four triples over 28 games. He finished on a high note, as well, winning the NL Rookie of the Month again in September and batting .341 with 10 homers and 22 RBIs in his final 34 regular season games.
Like with all rookies, there were stretches where Harper struggled. He fell into a slump in July and early August, and his ultra-competitive nature showed at times during that period, as Harper would sometimes take out his frustration on his equipment. But he improved mightily down the stretch and was arguably the Nationals’ most productive offensive player in the season’s final month.
“You’re going to go through some ups and downs in the game, and you’ve got to live with that,” Harper said. “That’s going to be throughout your whole career. You can never figure this game out. It’s a hard game. You’ve just got to be as humble as you can and as even-keeled as you can and know that some nights you’re going to go 0-for-4 and some nights you’re going to go 3-for-4 and be a hero.
“You’ve just got to go into every single game like it’s your last one, bust your butt, hustle, and that’s what you’re going to get out of me. I’m going to hustle every single day and I’m going to play hard and try to win a ballgame for my team.”