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Harper learning the ropes in Hagerstown

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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  1. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me - Apr 16, 2011 at 3:46 AM

    And so it begins. Kid can't get here soon enough. Tear it up, Bryce. Wish you were here.

  2. Doc - Apr 16, 2011 at 4:16 AM

    It's gonna be hard for any sports writer to get anything on Harper. He's seems totally grounded in the reality of his baseball life, and looks forward to dealing with his challenges on a day to day basis.Thanks for going to Hagerstown Mark,and doing a nice update on Prince Oppo Boppo. I think the Nats could use his bat right now. Hey, what about a "Chicken Sandwich Night" at Nats stadium with all the fans getting a sandwich when Nyjer Morgan strikes out???

  3. Grandstander - Apr 16, 2011 at 7:05 AM

    "Hey, what about a "Chicken Sandwich Night" at Nats stadium with all the fans getting a sandwich when Nyjer Morgan strikes out???"I came to post that exact same thing. +1Also, Bryce's secondary talent seems to be talking to the media. He's been saying all the right things in really great ways. Not to be cynical, but methinks a comm. director has been in his ear a bit as to how to approach the media since his ST debut.We've come a long way from the brash, war painted high school kid who graced the cover of SI at 16. Love that he's riding the bus, paying his dues. Just hope he's covering those Waffle House tabs for the team.

  4. sjm308 - Apr 16, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    I think it goes much deeper than some public relations person working with him. This goes back to family. I don't know much about his mom and dad but I think they have done a nice job with this young man. Can't wait for him to get here but I like that the Nationals seem not to be in a rush.Go Nats!

  5. JaneB - Apr 17, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    Wonder how it will compare to Strasmas when Harper comes up to the Bigs? I know that's getting ahead of things, but still…

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