Harper: “This is the life...This is where I wanted to be”

He eats peanut butter and honey as his pre-workout morning meal. He loves the Dallas Cowboys. And he once hit a baseball 570 feet.

Today he finished his first workout as a professional baseball player with the Washington Nationals at the team’s instructional league in Florida.

The 17-year-old Bryce Harper says the first day wasn’t too strenuous as he got to know his new teammates and coaches.

“We just went over a few things in the beginning, bunt coverage, bunt defense,” said Harper, who’s now at 215 pounds.

“We stretched a little bit, ran a little bit, did some field work, outfield work and some hitting. It was a pretty easy day, a chill day, just another day at the park.”

“It was really exciting to be out there with all the coaches and players and to get a feel for everything and get my feet wet in pro ball. The coaches were great. We got a good group of guys, great core guys, a lot of good prospects.”

Like any ballplayer, Harper wants to get better and he knows he hasn’t mastered any part of his game just yet.

“I can improve on everything in my game,” Harper said after finishing his workout by lifting in the weight room.

“I can get better in every aspect, no matter what it is. I can get better at hitting and fielding. I love to run. I am really aggressive on the base paths. I love to swing the bat. I am just a ballplayer kind of guy and the pro mentality out here - everything is aggressive out here. Everyone wants to play and every one wants to win. It is a lot of fun.”

After catching for the last few years on the baseball diamond, will switching to the outfield require him to make drastic changes? Harper doesn’t think so. He says he is as comfortable being aggressive 350 feet from home plate as he would be calling a game for the pitcher.

“I am just going to get out there and read the baseball and feed off the bat,” Harper said.

“I am going to dive and scratch and claw. I will try to catch every ball out there. I am going to be a Kelly Leak kind of guy. I will use my arm to the fullest. I will try to back pick guys like I have. My game is not going to change. I am going to give 120 percent and have a little bit of fun.”

Harper says he knows a few of his new teammates with the Nats from the past. Pitcher Tyler Hanks was a college teammate; Robbie Ray was a member of Team USA; and he played against and with pitcher A.J. Cole.

One question is whether or not Harper will play in the upcoming Arizona Fall League, which begins at about the same time instructional league wraps up in October. Harper says he would relish the opportunity.

“If it so happens I get invited to the AFL that would be awesome,” Harper said.

“That is a huge goal of mine to play in the AFL. I love the challenges. I love the competition. I love things like that. If I get the chance to go out there and face some guys that are pretty legit I would love to do that.”

Harper says it has been a whirlwind year since he walked onto the campus at the College of Southern Nevada about this time last year, but he has enjoyed every step along the way.

“It has been a great year,” Harper said. “Starting with the College of Southern Nevada, then going to the junior college world series, getting drafted and going out to Washington, everything like that, this is the life. Like I always said since I was five years old, this is where I wanted to be.”

“I signed a ball for a 7-year-old today, and I asked him if he wanted to be a pro baseball player and he said, ‘That’s right, that’s what I want.’

“It is everybody’s dream. From little leaguers to travel ballers, everyone wants to be a pro ballplayer. That is where I set my standards to. That is where I want to be.”

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