Dec 23, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
As we count down the final days of 2013, we are counting down the 10 most significant moments of the year for the Nationals. These aren’t necessarily positive (or negative) moments, and some didn’t even take place on the field. All, though, were significant in the big picture and defined the Nationals’ year. We continue today with significant moment No. 9: Bryce Harper homering in his first two at-bats of the season…
Given the way the rest of his season unfolded, it’s easy to overlook how 2013 began for Bryce Harper. But try to forget, if you can, everything that happened after April 1 and remember the way you felt about the Nationals’ young star at the end of his historic Opening Day performance.
The possibilities for Harper were limitless. And for good reason. There didn’t seem to be anything he couldn’t do at that point.
On the heels of a Rookie of the Year campaign at 19 and then a torrid spring training in which he went 11-for-11 late to finish with a Grapefruit League-best .478 batting average, Harper stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first at Nationals Park and took his first swing of the season. And crushed a 1-0 curveball from Ricky Nolasco over the fence in right-center.
Three innings later, Harper dug in against Nolasco again. This time, he worked the count full before walloping a 3-2 slider for his second homer in as many at-bats. His season stat line at that moment: 2-for-2, 2 HR, 1.000 AVG, 1.000 OBP, 4.000 SLG, 5.000 OPS.
“The first one was very cool,” he said afterward. “I think being able to share that with these fans and my family and this organization, this team, was a great moment, great experience. The second one, I didn’t really take full advantage of it, you could say. It was over, and I’m done. I think the first one really caught me. I was really excited about that one.”
Harper may have downplayed homer No. 2, but the sellout crowd of 45,274 sure didn’t. That throng stood and roared and wouldn’t sit down or shut up until the 20-year-old outfielder was coaxed out of the dugout for a curtain call.
Harper already was being touted as a potential MVP candidate, and his Opening Day performance only bolstered that line of thinking. A couple of wall collisions several weeks later would throw a wrench into those plans and leave Harper’s sophomore season as something of a letdown.
But for at least one storybook afternoon at Nationals Park, the possibilities for Bryce Harper felt limitless.
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