Whether he was doing so to downplay expectations, or because he really was just
taking part in the Home Derby because it was in D.C. and he was expected to, Bryce Harper had repeatedly said that he was just in it for fun in the weeks leading up to this year’s glorified batting practice exhibition.
He reiterated that point this afternoon in a press conference with all the contestants in the Derby this year.
“Yeah, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Harper said. “I think going out there and just trying to enjoy it with the fans, trying to enjoy it with the Nats fans and trying to have a good time.
“That’s the thing, go out and have fun; win, lose or draw, going to have some fun with my Pops and that’s about it.”
Asked if there was a spot in Nationals Park he was aiming to hit tonight, some part he had picked out to swing for, Harper said his approach was just to go for short blasts.
“I think the shorter you hit them, the faster you can hit them,” the 25-year-old slugger said.
“So I mean, just trying to barrel it up, and you don’t get -- I guess you do get points for that [distance]. But just trying to hit as many homers as I can and not really worry about where they go.”
“Is there a part of the park where wind blows?” the moderator asked. “Are there things about the park that we may not know?”
“There’s a corner out in right field that the ball doesn’t travel at all,” Harper deadpanned. “So the right field triangle corner, it’s absolutely terrible.
“You guys stay away from there,” he told the other contestants. “I think you’ll be okay.”
No one was buying it.
“Freddie, you buying that?” the moderator asked Harper’s first round opponent, Atlanta Braves’ slugger Freddie Freeman.
“No, I’m not buying that at all,” Freeman laughed. “Mind games.”
Freeman went first in the final matchup of the 1st Round, and hit 12, which is impressive for someone who said he concentrates on opposite field liners in BP and hadn’t hit a batting practice home run in three years, but Harper hit 13, with the 13th sending Nationals Park into a frenzy for their hometown hero.
Round 2 was a matchup with Dodgers’ rookie Max Muncy, who hit 12 in front of Harper, but after taking a timeout with about 1:33 left, Harper stepped back in with 10 and hit three in a quick burst to move on to the final against the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber.
Schwarber hit 18 total, however, meaning Harper would have to hit 19 to win it...
Harper had some swag to him when he camp bouncing out of the tunnel from the batting cage and took the field to try for it.
He was up to four with 2:38 left when he took a timeout. Max Scherzer and Sean Doolittle brought his towel and Gatorade out when he took second timeout at nine, with 1:29 plus bonus time left, and he caught fire as time wound down, launching one after another till he tied it up as time ran off the clock... then stepped back in for his bonus time and won it!!!
Bryce Harper: 2018 MLB HR Derby Champion!!