19-year-old major league phenom, Bryce Harper, made his major league debut with the Washington Nationals this season on April 28th, 2012 at Dodger Stadium. He is now the youngest player to play with the Nationals at 19 and 195 days of age. Harper started the game in left field and batted seventh.In his first at bat, after getting ahead in the count 2-1, Harper hit a one hopper back to starting pitcher, Chad Billingsley. Even though it was obvious that the play was made and all that had to be done was the play at first, Harper sprinted down until the out was recorded. Though it may not have been Harper’s ideal first at-bat, we all know that nerves played a big role. It was the moment he has been waiting for all his life (though it was a short wait compared to the normal rookie’s wait), his first at bat as a major league player. He also showed that nerves were no longer the case as the game progressed.
In Harper’s second at-bat with 2 outs in the top of the seventh inning, he hit a scorcher over the head of Center fielder, Matt Kemp. As the ball hit the warning track and bounced off the base of the wall, Harper rounded first with as much speed as his first at-bat. I personally liked how he threw off his helmet as was approaching second, making sure he didn’t have a chance for third. Unfortunately the Nat’s lower leg of the lineup couldn’t drive him in for the second run of the inning.
In the bottom half of that inning, Harper continued proving his hype. With 1 out and runners on first and second, A.J Ellis hit a ground ball through the hole to left field, rolling to Harper. The third base coach decided to test his arm and sent Jerry Hairston Jr. rounding third and headed home when Harper lasers the ball on a straight shot to Wilson Ramos. Unfortunately Ramos couldn’t hold on to the ball as Hairston Jr slid into home and was announced safe.
At this point in the game, Harper had already shown he was worth the hype with his first major league hit and what should have been his first assist from the outfield in his debut, but it wasn’t enough for Harper. In the top of the ninth with runners on first and third, Harper earned his first RBI with a sacrifice fly to left, bringing in Rick Ankiel as the go-ahead run. Though the Nats drove in another run that inning, it proved to not be enough as the Dodgers scored 2 runs to take the game into extra innings and Matt Kemp, who was 0-3 in the day, hit a walk off home run in the bottom of the tenth to spoil Harper’s debut.
Since Harper’s first game, he has been 5 for 10 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs in 3 games, 2 of them that were doubles. Harper has also continued making great plays in the outfield with another close assist at home and a diving, wall crashing catch in center field. In yesterday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Diamondbacks third base coach held the runner as Harper made another great throw, this time from center field. Harper has set a reputation for himself 3 games into his major league career and is still believe to be “hyped up”.
Harper was called up earlier than expected this season in the newly formatted National’s lineup due to the transfer of Ryan Zimmerman to the DL for shoulder inflammation. During the off-season it was speculated that Harper would have made the opening day roster, however was sent down to AAA Syracuse to get him better prepared. Even though he was sent down, everyone believed he would have been called up before the All Star weekend anyways. The question now is when Ryan Zimmerman returns from his MINOR shoulder inflammation a little after the May 6th activation does Harper get sent back down to further “mature”? Or has he proven himself to the clubhouse and the league that he’s ready to be a full time contributor for the Nationals. One thing is for sure, Harper is on fire right now.
The Washington Nationals will finish their series with the Diamondbacks tonight with Harper moving up and hitting third in the lineup, usually Ryan Zimmerman’s spot. They bring in the series vs. the Phillies this weekend introducing the new promotion, “Take Back the Park”, an effort to get more National fans than Philly fans to the game.