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Significant moment No. 9: Harper’s 2 Opening Day homers

Dec 23, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

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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.

  1. Sonny G 10 - Dec 23, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    An unbelievable start to the season. Thought Bryce was going to have a monster of a season at that point.

    • Steady Eddie - Dec 23, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      He actually did go on to have a monster April — hitting .356 with 9 homers going into the April 30 debacle where he had his first close encounter of the wall kind futilely chasing Hudson’s dinger. His performance fell off a cliff after that even before the disaster in LA.

  2. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 23, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    Exciting? Absolutely; without a doubt. But significant? Not so sure about that. If the 2013 Nats had gone on to fulfill everyone’s expectations, then it might be possible to look back as those two Opening Day HRs as foreshadowing success and destiny, and thus rising to the level of significant. But given the way the season developed — both for the team and for Bryce Harper — I’m just not sure they were anything more than a tease. An electrifying tease, sure. But still a tease.

    • ArVAFan - Dec 23, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      I will go out on a limb and say “significant” in his career, even if it turned out only to be a “what could have been if he’d only stayed away from the walls” for the 2013 season. And definitely memorable!

  3. Jw - Dec 23, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    The significance of Opening Day is not what Harper did or what Strasburg did. The significance is that aside from Harper’s two homers there was no hitting whatsoever. This set the pattern for much of the rest of the season.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 23, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      +1

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 23, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    The hot stove should turn into the cold stove this week with nothing going on with baseball.

    Happy Holidays and Merry Xmas to all.

    • ArVAFan - Dec 23, 2013 at 1:41 PM

      It’s not cold–it’s just that everyone’s using it for baking and other holiday cooking! And happy holiday (of your choice) to all Insiders, near & far.

  5. waddueyeno - Dec 24, 2013 at 12:07 AM

    yo

    been a while. been reading the posts from mark & chase, not many by the rest of you. busy year of school, gigs, etc.

    best of holidays to all, merry christmas, late happy hanukkah, early happy new year and, of course…

    2-28 vs mets!!

    GYFNG

  6. NatsLady - Dec 24, 2013 at 12:14 AM

    Interesting stats on relievers, how many, innings, etc.

    http://www.gammonsdaily.com/relievers-used-by-each-team-in-2013/

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