Harper Turns 21
As you’ve no doubt already heard, Bryce Harper turned 21 today. It’s worth taking a moment to realize just what that means, and to appreciate just how much he has already accomplished.
With that in mind, here are 21 of our favorite things about the Nationals All-Star outfielder, in an only somewhat particular order. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments below:
21. The number of outfield assists Harper has amassed in his first two seasons, collecting 13 in just 115 games this year (more on that later).
20. At 20, on his first Major League Opening Day, Harper’s first swing of the season crushed a breaking ball from Ricky Nolasco into the seats for Washington’s first run. In his very next at-bat, he did it again, beginning his season with not just one bang, but a pair of them.
19. Harper provided a moment nearly as dramatic exactly three months later when he stepped back onto the field at Nationals Park, after a stint on the disabled list, and found the seats yet again. A standing ovation greeted him as he dug into the box, and he blasted an opposite-field home run, leading Washington to a 10-5 victory.
18. It was another 24 days until Harper’s next homer, but he didn’t lose his flair for the moment over that span. After Washington coughed up a ninth-inning lead against the Pirates, Harper blasted a two-run, walk-off shot into the Red Porch seats — the first walk-off home run of his career.
17. Of course, Harper can also win games with his glove. He gave up his body in the ninth inning of a one-run game in Kansas City, making one of his most spectacular catches to date.
16. In partnership with the Nationals and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Harper’s Heroes was a season-long program that treats families affected by childhood cancers to a fun-filled day at Nationals Park. The VIP experience, held on six separate occasions in 2013, included a private meet and greet with Harper as well as a special batting practice viewing, T-shirts and tickets to the game, complete with NatsBucks.
15. It’s probably time to stop running on Harper.
14. For running until they tag him.
13. The 2013 season marked Bryce’s second All-Star appearance in as many campaigns. We get the sense he’ll have a few more before he’s done playing.
12. That’s Harper’s total number of triples through two seasons, which allow us to appreciate his self-helmet removal device.
11. That’s exactly how many games back of the Braves the Nationals found themselves after a pair of tough losses in Detroit, when Harper decided to be more vocal. That led him to go out and make T-shirts for the club, which recorded the best record in the Major Leagues (34-20) the rest of the season.
10. C’mon. Stop running on Bryce.
9. That’s how many more seasons of Major League experience Jayson Werth has than Harper, whom Werth has taken under his wing. Watching their big brother-little brother relationship grow has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the past two seasons.
8. The setup to “the steal.” After Harper was plunked by Cole Hamels with nobody on and two out the first time he’d ever faced Hamels, Harper stood at first as Werth dropped a single into left field. Recognizing that outfielder Juan Pierre was fielding the ball, Harper knew he could be aggressive on the bases, as he scorched around second and into third base. All of which led to…
7. “The steal.” With the lefty Hamels paying more attention to Werth, Harper timed him on a pickoff throw to first. When Hamels lobbed another ball over, Harper took off, sprinting home and sliding in ahead of Carlos Ruiz’s tag for a steal of home. He joined a list that includes Hall of Famer Cal Ripken as players who made their first stolen base as a major leaguer one of home plate. And he did it all in front of a national television audience on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
6. Harper’s relationship with 13-year-old Gavin Rupp. Harper and Rupp bonded before a home game this season, when Harper went above and beyond the call of duty to not just spend time with Rupp, but to really get to know him as a human being. As part of the SU2C (Stand Up to Cancer) campaign during the All-Star Home Run Derby, Harper held up a card reading “I Stand Up for Gavin Rupp” for the world to see. Harper is among many in the Nationals family who continue to mourn Rupp’s all-too-early passing later that month.
5. Harper is one of just five players with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases prior to his 21st birthday. The complete list:
Bryce Harper 42 HR, 29 SB
Ken Griffey, Jr. 38 HR, 32 SB
Mike Trout 24 HR, 40 SB
Andruw Jones 26 HR, 25 SB
Adrian Beltre 22 HR, 21 SB
4. Seriously. Don’t run on Bryce.
3. That is the total number of Major League players in history with more than 40 home runs at age 20 or younger. Harper’s 42 career long balls prior to age 21 trail just Mel Ott (61) and Tony Conigliaro (56) on the all-time list.
2. Although he didn’t win the competition, Harper advanced all the way to the finals of the 2013 Home Run Derby. He put on a show and gave eventual champion Yoenis Cespedes a good run for his money in what is hopefully just his first of many appearances in the annual event.
So, what’s number one?
1. That’s a clown question, bro.