Bryce Harper was clearly humbled by winning his first National League Most Valuable Player award last night. Watching the broadcast on MLB Network, Harper was emotional while speaking with his family surrounding him. He talked of how much hard work he put in, not just over his first four years in the majors, but since childhood with his mom and dad.
Harper was also quick to credit his Nationals teammates, specifically Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond, for helping him develop on and off the field. Both veterans were in place in Washington for a few years when they took a 19-year-old Harper under their wing after he made his major league debut in 2012. That season delivered an NL Rookie of the Year award, the first of Harper’s many honors this game seemed destined to give him.
Harper and Desmond had an obvious bond. It was far deeper than Desmond’s helmet lift after a Harper homer with the ensuing hair flip. Following one of the final games of the season at Nationals Park, Harper talked about how important it was to get a win because it was the last time Desmond’s kids would be in the clubhouse.
And in his emotional goodbye after the last game of the year, Desmond pointed to watching Harper grow up in the game as one of his most positive moments during his seven-year career in D.C. “It’s been fun to play a part in his career,” Desmond said that day.
Harper talked last night about how Desmond taught him to always have fun playing baseball and to not take the game so seriously.
“He’s such a great teammate,” Harper said. “He’s such a great person on and off the field, has a great family, and I enjoy playing side by side with him every single night. At the end of the day, whether you’re 0-for -4 or 4-for-4, you have to have the same mentality coming into that next day. And that’s what I tried to do the whole year this year. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to help my team win on a daily basis and that’s all I wanted to do. I respect Desi more than anybody. This guy is somebody that I truly look up to as a person, and I can’t thank him enough for everything he did for me this year.”
Werth has long been considered the leader in the Nationals clubhouse and took the role seriously when Harper showed up in 2012. Throw the 13-year age difference out the window with the relationship that quickly formed between the two.
“Jayson Werth, he’s like a brother to me, he’s definitely family,” Harper said last night. “I can’t thank him enough for taking me under his wing at the age of 19 and doing everything he could. He’s somebody that I truly love playing with and I’m very excited to be able to get back with him next year and the next couple years. He’s taught me so much about how to approach the game, how to win ballgames, how to play in the postseason, how to play the game the right way every single day. The guy’s been around the game for a long, long time, and I can’t thank him enough for everything he does, if that’s taking me out to dinner, if that’s hanging out with me in the clubhouse or telling me what a pitcher’s doing, his tendencies, all around the game. He knows it. It’s been a lot of fun.”
You could see the big brother-little brother banter play out last night when Harper recalled Werth’s blunt message to him about getting booed by opposing fans from ballpark to ballpark.
“Jayson always messes with me and says, ‘If you don’t like it, then stop doing all your stupid commercials,’” Harper said, laughing.
Note: The Nationals on Friday signed veteran infielder Scott Sizemore to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.
Sizemore, 30, is a native of Virginia Beach, Va., who played collegiately at VCU. He’s spent parts of four seasons in the majors, playing for the Tigers, A’s and Yankees, and slashing ,240/.327/.383 with 14 homers and 73 RBIs. Sizemore last appeared in the majors with the Yankees, and split 2015 between the Marlins and Nationals organizations, batting .426 in 14 games for Triple-A Syracuse.
Injuries have dogged Sizemore, a once-promising prospect who missed all of the 2012 season and most of the 2013 campaign with knee problems.
MLB.com first reported news of Sizemore signing with the Nats.