Kindred Spirits of Hustle
As the Nationals arrived at Petco Park to begin their four-game set with the San Diego Padres on Thursday, a special visitor awaited them. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M University quarterback, was in town for a training program with his personal coach and decided to drop by before the game.
In addition to posing for a picture with fellow Aggie Davey Johnson, Manziel took batting practice with the Padres and appeared on the hometown broadcast that night. But Manziel was, in particular, also at this specific game for another reason: Bryce Harper.
Harper, who won the Golden Spikes Award in 2010 –baseball’s equivalent of the Heisman – had befriended the quarterback via Twitter. It’s only fitting that the two 20-year-olds got to know one another, considering that their all-out styles of play are what have put them in the national spotlight. Together, they are kindred spirits of hustle.
“You’re never going to see him not go all out,” said Manziel of Harper. “I play with my heart on my sleeve and he plays the same way.”
Of course, their paths to the top-ranked amateur players in their sports were wildly divergent. Several months after Harper found himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated dubbed “Baseball’s Chosen One,” Manziel was just beginning to turn heads as an undersized signal-caller at tiny Kerville-Tivy High School in central Texas. And while they are the same age, Manziel recognizes that he still has plenty of work ahead of him to ascend to Harper’s level on the professional stage.
“He’s at the top,” said Manziel. “He’s at the highest level. I’m still working my way up there.”
As he often does, Harper shone brightly with the extra attention of the evening. And although Stephen Strasburg ruled the day with his solid start in front of family and friends in his hometown, Harper found a way to steal a bit of the spotlight with a 432-foot home run to center field.