Nats phenom talks D.C. monuments, embracing attention, his expectations

Before Tuesday’s Nationals Park debut for Bryce Harper, the 19-year-old said he was more nervous for the game than Saturday’s major league debut in Los Angeles. He didn’t look nervous in batting practice booming seven impressive home runs – two to left-center, two to right, and three to right-center. Four shots made it to the middle deck, below the big screen

“I think this is huge,” Harper said of his home debut. “I think I’m a little bit more nervous here than I was in L.A. Playing in front of the home fans, hopefully I can calm down and get it going tonight.”

On Monday, while Harper strolled through the Lincoln Memorial, he was recognized by some softball players who asked him to join them at the nearby fields and take a few cuts. He obliged.

“They were like, ‘C’mon!’ So I was like, ‘All right, I’ll come over there.’” Harper said. “I just hung out a little bit and I talked to the fans and whatnot.”

Other Harper quotes:
On embracing attention

“It’s a blessing, I can tell you that. I love being out here. I love playing and you know, I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened to me right now. You know, like I said, I love the game of baseball, and I’m gonna come out here, give 110 percent and try to be a game-changer and just play the game I love.”

On being in big leagues faster than expected

“I think everybody’s gonna be happy with being called up, so I was very happy about it. I called my family really quick and told them, and had to jump on that plane to get out to LA. To have Beasley come in there and talk to me and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to L.A.’ I think that was a great moment for me and him, and you know, I think it’s just a very nice gift.”

I’m gonna come out here and play as hard as I can every single night. It doesn’t matter if I’m hurt or if I don’t feel good or whatnot. I’m gonna come out here and I’m gonna give as much as I can to this team, to this organization, to this city. I want to win every single night and I think that we have a club that can win. We can win a World Series and whatnot, and I think that’s the goal here. I think everybody in this organization plays hard, plays the game right, and you know, I think that’s what you’re gonna get out of me.”

Impressions of the Lincoln Memorial

“I loved it. I think it was awesome. I think everything about this city is really cool. The historic background behind this city and seeing the White House and the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson, all that kind of stuff, the monuments. I don’t think you can play in a better city. Everything that happens here every single day, I think it’s just gonna be a great place to play.”

On staying in big leagues

“You know, I’m just trying to take it one game at a time, one at-bat at a time. You know, just seeing how it goes and trying to win as much as we can while I’m up here. Just trying to take every single day one-by-one … There’s a lot of guys at my age who have gone up and down. [Mike] Trout did it last year, and there’s a couple guys who have done it. I think I’m just going to enjoy my time as much as I can and have some fun.”

On manager Davey Johnson

“I love Davey. He’s a very fiery manager, a very fun manager and he wants to win. I think that’s the biggest thing. Bringing him in, having him around us, him being around the game for so long – it’s huge for our team and our organization.”

Only nine teenagers since 1954 have played in 100 big league games in one season. Reaction?

“Uh, I’m only two games in, so maybe I’ll get back to you on that …It’s just a blessing being up here, I can tell you that. I can’t say I’ll be up here for 120 or 100 or whatever. I’m just trying to take it one game at a time. It’s just really fun being out there.”

On his focus

“I think that was the biggest thing. I think when I got to LA, I got really comfortable. I got up here and I was really comfortable with things. In Triple-A, I was like, I’ve got to prove and do stuff to get back up to the big leagues and whatnot because I want to be there so bad, and then once I got up here, it was like a calm went over my body that said, ‘Hey, you’re here, just play your game. Play the game that you know how to play and don’t worry about anything else around you.’”

Focus at the plate

“Once I got to Syracuse, I was struggling a little bit and then I got going a little bit more, and then seeing a lot more pitches, I think that’s the biggest thing – not to chase early. See pitches up a lot, and in the big leagues, you’re gonna get more pitches than you would in Double-A or Triple-A or whatnot, so you know, I think that was the biggest thing. I know the strike zone more and you know, was just trying to battle on every single count. I think my toughest at-bat was the last AB of the whole weekend, and you know, I just really tried to get in there and battle and hopefully good things would happen.”

On his sometimes abrasive personality on the field

“Once I’m between those lines, you know, nothing else matters to me. Once I leave those lines, I walk out of the stadium, I can be the nicest person in the world. But you know, I think, you know, going into the game, I play the game hard and I try to play it right every single day. You know, I have that fire, that passion to play the game, and when you see my attitude, it’s when a team messes with my team. I think that’s the biggest thing, you know? I will always have my team’s back and not worry about what other people think as long as my team knows I have respect for this game and have respect for everybody in that clubhouse.”