Apr 16, 2011, 3:27 AM EDT
Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Bryce Harper went 0-for-3 with a walk tonight in his home debut at Hagerstown.
HAGERSTOWN, Md. — They’ve been playing baseball here at Municipal Stadium for 81 years, and they’ve seen their fair share of phenoms storm through town. Shoot, Willie Mays played his first professional game right here in 1950, and his retired No. 24 hangs on the right-field wall.
The debut Friday night of Bryce Harper, though, was something of a major event for this sleepy town. Stadium workers wore white T-shirts proclaiming this as “Harperstown.” An announced crowd of 6,107 cheered their new right fielder when he was introduced for the first time on Opening Night. And when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first, flashbulbs popped from every section, to the astonishment of the Suns’ first-year manager.
“It kind of reminded me of being in the playoffs,” said Brian Daubach, who spent eight years in the majors, including five with the Red Sox. “You don’t really see that at a normal big-league game. There is a lot of excitement. I’m sure it’s hard to relax. I’ve probably never witnessed that many flashbulbs when I was playing, and I played in an ALCS, Red Sox-Yankees (in 2004). There’s a lot of people following him, and I can imagine it would be tough.”
Based on Harper’s early season performance, it appears it is indeed tough to play under this spotlight. After an 0-for-3 showing Friday night, the top prospect in the Nationals’ system (and perhaps in baseball) is sporting a .226 average. He has one homer and five RBI in nine games, but he also has nine strikeouts.
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