PHOENIX - In a practical sense, there's probably always going to be a divide between Bryce Harper and his teammates for as long as he's in the minor leagues. He's anywhere from four to 10 years younger than the players with whom he shares a clubhouse at Double-A Harrisburg, and while many of them are scraping their way through the Nationals organization, the 18-year-old has come breezing into town on a current of media hype, sizable compensation and prodigious talent.
He's in much the same situation as Stephen Strasburg last year, except he didn't even have a drivers' license when most of his teammates were drafted.
But this is hardly Harper's first time being around players older than him. He's spent enough time around baseball to know its rhythms, practical jokes and traditions, and since he was a kid, he's wanted nothing more than to fill all of his time with the routines of baseball's grind.
His latest stop is just another step in that process.
"I've been really impressed with the person," manager Tony Beasley said on Sunday. "Obviously, he's had a good upbringing. He's very respectful - everything I've ever said to him, he 'Yes, sir's' me, and I don't really want to be referred to as, 'Yes, sir.' There have been a couple things we've talked about so far, and he understands why. That's what it's all about - to get him to understand when to and when not to do certain things on the baseball field."
He and Beasley talk every day, about baseball and other topics beyond the game - the Nationals have made a concerted effort to develop close relationships between Harper and his managers, from Randy Knorr in the Arizona Fall League to Brian Daubach at Single-A Hagerstown - and pitcher Brad Peacock said he's fit in well.
"You've got to expect (a little bit of a circus), but he handles it well," Peacock said. "He's got a good head on his shoulders."
Harper has only played four games at Harrisburg so far after being promoted from Hagerstown last Monday, but he's hit well early in his time there, going 5-for-14 with a pair of RBIs, a walk and a stolen base.
He was the center of attention on Sunday afternoon before the All-Star Futures Game, hitting a handful of homers in batting practice and holding court at his locker, talking to reporters with the detachment of a 10-year veteran.
"This is huge, being able to come out here and play on All-Star weekend," Harper said. "It's always been a dream of mine, and to just be able to come out here and celebrate with my family, it's kind of fun. I'm excited to go."
Harper will head back to Las Vegas tomorrow night, spend a day with his family and fly back to Harrisburg on Wednesday. Once the All-Star festivities are beyond him, Harper's educational process will continue.
"He's a very confident kid," Beasley said. "I don't want him to ever lose that. Even if it comes across that he's cocky, he's not cocky. He's very confident in his ability. He believes in what he's capable of doing. If he didn't, he wouldn't be where he's at at 18 years old."