Bryce Harper is more Drew Storen than Stephen Strasburg when it comes to dealing with the media. The Washington Nationals' no.1 pick from the 2010 First-Year Player Draft was introduced to the assembled members of the baseball media in Nationals Park Thursday night, ten days after the 17-year-old potential middle-of-the-order bat signed a 5-year/$9.9 million dollar major league deal, and Harper was prepared and clearly comfortable on the dais flanked by his agent, Scott Boras, and his new GM, Mike Rizzo, who was the first to speak, welcoming the newest National to the nation's capital:
Mike Rizzo: "It's my extreme pleasure to formally introduce the newest member of the Washington Nationals' family, Bryce Harper. Bryce comes [to Washington after] a highly acclaimed amateur career, a prodigious power type of player, middle of the lineup possibilities, and it's just another fact that the Washington Nationals are going in the correct direction with acquisition of such great young talent. Put him in the same lineup as the Zimmermans, and the Desmonds and the Bernadinas, the Ramoses, and put a pitching staff of Zimmermann, Strasburg and [Ross] Detwiler around him, we feel we have good corps of good young players. We feel that he's going to be a cornerstone of the organization, on and off the field, and it's my great pleasure to introduce you, Bryce Harper, of the Washington Nationals. And to make it official, we always have our Face of the Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, he hands out the jerseys..."
Just as he had last year with the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick, Stephen Strasburg, the Nats' first 1st Round pick, '05 1st Rounder Ryan Zimmerman entered the room with cap and jersey in hand and helped Bryce Harper out of his suit jacket and into his first Washington Nationals' jersey, the no.34 Elijah Dukes once wore, which Harper says honors Yankee great Mickey Mantle. (3+4=7). The 17-year-old future Nats' right fielder had taken BP earlier in the day, and he told the host of the introductory press conference, MASN's Bob Carpenter, he was, "like a kid in a candy store" when he was out on the field in Nats Park. "It felt like home," Harper said, "It was a blast going out there and hitting with a couple other guys, and being able to hit on a pro field...It's just a lot of fun to go out there and show what I got, and to be able to hit it up in the upper deck, that's a lot of fun."
"I'm sure [Pitching Coach] Rick Eckstein would like me to ask you, did you hit any balls to the opposite field?" Bob Carpenter asked.
"Yeah, I did. I hit a couple to left and to center. And I think that's my best power to left, so, uh, I love hitting the oppo boppo, so, we'll see." Asked how anxious he was to get playing now that he's signed, the former College of Southern Nevada catcher who'll be an outfielder with Washington said that he, "love(s) the game of baseball, and I love being out on the field, and I just love playing and I live for baseball, and anywhere I can play and anywhere I can help the team throughout the whole organization, minor league ball, major league ball, I'm just really excited to get out there and start playing."
"I set high standards for myself and I think I should be perfect in every aspect of the game," Harper says. Harper's agent, Scott Boras, says that the second-straight Nats' no.1 pick he's represented has shown the same determination he has playing the game off the field in order to get himself into the draft and onto a 40-Man Major League roster before he turns eighteen. "Because was such a good a player at a young age...he had to make a decision to really take on an academic challenge, and that was to go to college when you're in effect a junior in high school and to take courses and take a GED exam with studies he had not achieved, I think it says a lot about Bryce intellectually as well as what his talent is."
The DC GM Mike Rizzo was asked about his decision to shift the college catcher to the outfield, and as he's explained before, Rizzo says, "I've seen him play several games in the outfield. I think he's going to be a fine player. I think he has the athleticism and the other skills that translate well into playing the outfield. He was obviously drafted for the middle-of-the-lineup corner bat and that's what we think we've got out of him, and he's a very educated player, he's got a high baseball IQ, knows the game very, very well, and we think that we have a really good player here that's an impact player."
As for the Nats' immediate plans for the 17-year-old, the Nats' general manager says, "The plan for Bryce is, we're going to prepare him to play in the Florida Instructional League with the rest of our top prospects, and that'll begin in about two weeks, and from there, we're not sure. There's a possibility that he could play in the Arizona Fall League. We're going to take that step by step, and then he'll prepare for Spring Training next season."
Stephen Strasburg debuted within a year after he signed with Washington and was introduced to the nation's capital. Harper's probably on a longer path to the majors, but he has a model for what he's bound to go through, "I've been through some of the things that Strasburg was and just to look back and see that he was going through the same exact thing, that's pretty huge," Harper said, but he's prepared for what lies ahead. As he puts it, this is just the start, "I'm not where I want to be, I'm where I want to be, but I'm not up at the big league level right now, I've still got a lot of things to prove and a lot of things to do, get bigger, faster, stronger, stuff like that. I'm never satisfied with myself, or anything about me, I always think I can get better and improve on every part of my game." Today was a fun ceremony and introduction, two weeks from now it's a job. Bryce Harper is a part of the Nats' organization, when will he become a Washington National?