On Sunday, for the second time this week, I sat in the stands at Nationals Park (The Nationals apparently don’t think my word-smithing is worth a press pass or 15 minutes with Steve Lombardozzi, but whatever, I just learned how to spell “Jordan Zimmermann” so I get it) fighting every urge to revert back to my eight year-old self and become enamored with a professional athlete. The reason: Bryce Aron Max Harper.
I first heard of Bryce Harper about four years ago when he was a high school catcher and perhaps the most talented prep player in the country. He was also 16. Harper came from a family with a hard-driving father who by all accounts raised his son to be a preening asshole. A Sports Illustrated cover, Scott Boras representation, and the whole GED to junior college thing did nothing to slow down my silly narrative. Harper didn’t surface again in my life until he ended up being drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2010. As soon he finished his hold-out (he didn’t sign until the last possible moment, natch), he became my problem. The arguments with umpires and kisses blown to pitchers he homered off of were painful reminders that very soon, he would be in my face on a daily basis. Then a year ago Sunday, things started to change.
Beyond the “Boardwalk Empire” haircut, the stupid car¬†and tattoos, he is an immense talent who earnestly loves the game and seems to love Washington. Here’s 10 reasons why I love him back. Well, actually, there are about 100, but in the interest of time (and maintaining the interest of my 11 readers), I limited it to the following:
- He chose the number “34” because his favorite player was Mickey Mantle (3+4=7, Mantle’s number). It’s also the same number as the last pro athlete I idolized, Bo Jackson.
- Bryce has a steady girlfriend and he doesn’t drink, so there’s a pretty good chance he won’t steal your girlfriend the next time she’s out at the bar… Until he turns 21.
- Despite his affinity for sobriety, he can still boot ‘n rally.
- Bryce understands you can never trust a man who¬†doesn’t wear¬†side burns.
- He doesn’t respect punk-ass World Series MVPs.
- He hit 500-foot home runs… When he was 16.
- His teammates call him “Bam Bam.”
- He has stated his goal is to live his professional and personal life like Joe Namath.
- According to Buster, he has the seventh-most career home runs for a player under 21 years-old. Who is ahead of him? Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, and Al Kaline. He needs 30 more to tie Ott. Good thing he’s on pace for 47 more this season and doesn’t turn 21 until October.
- With his speed, arm, and knowledge of the game, he could probably play just about any position in the field (including pitcher: he was clocked at 96 mph in high school).
I know in a few years, perhaps when he signs the inevitable $300M contract and collects a few MVP awards, he’ll probably let me down outside a shitty club on K Street at 3am with some stupid promoter. Alas, I can’t, neigh I won’t worry about that now. In 2013, my biggest concern is how I rationalize the purchase of his t-shirt jersey (Dudes, I’m over 30. Ever listen to Jay-Z?).