Friday, August 27, 2010

Bryce Harper Introductory Press Conference

Strasburg Surgery Press Conference Transcript Still Available Here.

Figuring NatsTown needed a pick-me-up after the sad news was revealed concerning Stephen Strasburg today, we've decided to push ahead with what was Nats320's originally anticipated posting from this morning--the hoopla surrounding the introduction of Bryce Harper to the Washington Media. In the nearly 20 minutes before the cameras, The Number 1 Overall Pick in the 2010 Draft was funny, engaging and humble--everything that hadn't truly been stated about the young man before. That poise--the best image Sohna and I took out of watching the entire proceeding in person.

That fact--and the just as equally entertaining Sheri Harper--Bryce's Mom. The Young Harper mentioned in his press conference how much he misses his dog--a black lab named Harley. Sohna asked Sheri about the dog after the proceedings concluded and she mentioned this wonderful story.

"Ron (her husband) and I loved to ride motorcycles, Harley-Davidsons. But the kids weren't too much into riding. So we gave up the motorcycles, got the dog, and named him Harley. So in the long run, I still got to keep my Harley."

Now that's funny. Sheri Harper went on to say that having a sense of humor was good for her entire family. "It's always helped the kids (Bryce, Bryan and Brittany) growing up. They're serious, but they also know when to have fun and get all over each other--and that's a good thing."

With that here is the transcript from Bryce Harper's Introductory Press Conference held at Nationals Park on August 26th, 2010. MASN's Bob Carpenter hosted the event. Harper, Our General Manager Mike Rizzo and Bryce's Agent--Scott Boras--sat on the dais.

Mike Rizzo: It’s my extreme pleasure to formally introduce the newest member of The Washington Nationals family--Bryce Harper. Bryce comes highly acclaimed in his amateur career, prodigious type of power player, middle of the lineup possibilities. And just another fact that The Washington Nationals are going in the correct direction with the acquiring of such great young talent. Put him in the same lineup with the Ryan Zimmerman’s and the (Ian) Desmond’s and the Bernadina’s, Ramos’ and put a pitching staff of Zimmermann, Strasburg, and Detwiler around him--we feel we have a good core of young players. We feel he is going to be a cornerstone of the organization on and off the field. And it’s my great pleasure to introduce to you Bryce Harper of The Washington Nationals.

And to make it official, we always have Our Face Of The Franchise--Ryan Zimmerman-to handle these opportunities.

(Applause while Ryan Zimmerman gives Harper his jersey--uniform Number 34 and Red Curly “W” Cap and both pose for pictures for the media)

Bob Carpenter: Any significance to the number 34?

Bryce Harper: I grew up loving Mickey Mantle. When I was playing until I was 10 years old--I was always number 7. Then, one year, there was this kid who had number 7, so I chose 34 to match that and I stopped looking back.

Carpenter: This is not the first Major League ballpark in which you’ve had a chance to hit. Yankee Stadium, both old and new and here at Nationals Park today. How did it feel to be on the diamond today and hitting in a Major League ballpark?

Harper: It felt like home. It was a blast. I went out there and hit with a couple of the guys. To be able to hit on a pro field is always fun. That’s a kids dream, I am like a kid in a candy store right now. It’s a lot of fun to go out there and show what I got--and be able to hit it up to the upper deck--that is always fun.

Carpenter: I am sure Rick Eckstein would like me to ask you. Did you hit any balls to the opposite field?

Harper: Yeah, I did. I hit some to left and to center. And I think my best power is to left (the opposite way) ‘OPOBAPO’ (opposite field power).

Question: Bryce, how anxious are you to start playing in games and how excited are you that you finally got the contract signed?

Harper: I love the game of baseball. I love being out on the field. I just love playing and I live for baseball. Anywhere I can play, anywhere I get the opportunity to play in this organization--in minor league ball, major league ball--I am just really excited to get out there and start playing.

Question: Have you set any personal goals for yourself when it comes to date of arrival (in the majors)?

Harper: I have no idea right now. I am just trying to get out there and do what I can do. I will let the higher power take care of that and see what they are going to do. But I’ve set high standards for myself and I think I should be perfect in every aspect of the game. So I am going to try to help the organization as much as I can to win and see what happens.

Carpenter: Scott, I have a question for you. We were here just over a year ago with Stephen Strasburg. What is it about this young man that forged your relationship with him and why should we all be excited about Bryce becoming a National?

Scott Boras: I think most athletes that have talent you expect them to perform well on the baseball field. And I think the unique thing about Bryce and his brother, Bryan, is how he went to the extremes in baseball because he was such a good young player. He had to make a decision to really take on an academic challenge. And that was to go to college when, in effect, he was just a junior in high school. And take courses, and a GED exam, and study like he has--it says a lot about Bryce intellectually as well as what his talent is. It was a process that as a family was a very difficult decision for Bryce and the Harper Family. I think the credit should go to his mom and dad and the whole Harper Family for what they have done the last two years supporting him.

Question: Mike, could you talk about Bryce as an outfielder and how good do you think he can be?

Rizzo: We throw around accolades and descriptions and comparisons all the time. We feel, and I’ve seen him play several games in the outfield, that he is 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 I think that is what we will get out of him. He’s a very educated player. He’s got a high baseball IQ. He knows the game very well. And we think we have a really good player here that’s an impact player. You hear me talk about that all the time. We feel we have an impact player. And being an everyday player is very, very important. We are going to develop him at a rate that maximizes his impactibility and we feel we have a good player for a long time.

Question: Being a 17 year old and coming to a Major League Park can be daunting to hit batting practice as you did today. You’ve done that before, can you relax better than most?

Harper: I’ve taken BP in Tampa (Tropicana Field) and Petco Park (San Diego) and Yankee Stadium--like he (Carpenter) said. I still get that feeling like it’s my first time hitting BP. Like I said, it’s every kids dream to get out there and hit BP in a Major League Ballpark. And it was just a great experience (today) and I loved every minute of it.

Question: Bryce, Tim Foli talked to you during the 6th round of your batting practice today. What did he tell you? Did he tell you to relax?

Harper: My first two rounds, I sat back a little bit--like I usually do. The next two, I started to jump things up a bit. I got a little ansy. In that final round, he said: everybody knows what you can do. Everybody knows you are the guy that can swing it. So, just relax and hit the ball--he said--have some fun. And that’s what I did that last round.

Question: Bryce, could you talk about your swing. The ability to have as much power as you do with such a compact swing? How did you hone that and who did you model it after?

Harper: Oh man, a lot of work in the cage. My dad has been huge in everything that I have done. He’s absolutely incredible with my swing. He knows better than anybody. So to have him around has helped me with everything when it comes to my game and stuff. He knows all that stuff. I really don’t know how I swing. I do, but I really don’t know where my power comes from.

Question: Has all the attention affected you in any way?

Harper: I have had a lot of people around me my whole life. I am really used to it now. I have had a lot of media, a lot of little kids looking up to me. That’s the biggest thing, trying to teach little guys how to go out there and just have fun--go out there and play ball. It’s baseball and in baseball you are going to have to have fun or you are not going to play well. Having the media and stuff, is fine. I am used to it, having all the scouts out there watching me. When Mr. Rizzo came out there and watched me--it was just another guy in the stands to me. I just went out there and played my game. (shoulder shrug)--you know?

Question: What did you and Albert Pujols talk about?

Harper: I have known Albert for a while. That wasn’t the first time meeting him (yesterday in D.C.). Albert is a great guy. A great hitter. He’s a humble, incredible guy. I hung out with him at the All-Star game also. And he’s just a down to earth guy that’s easy to talk to. One of the guys I want to be around when I get up here (to the big leagues). He just said a lot of good things to me. And is just a great guy.

Question: So you won’t be hating The Cardinals?

Harper: When I play them, I will. But off the field, no (laughter), we’re buddies. When I am playing against them, I want to beat the crap out of them--pretty much. (more laughter)

Question: How long are you going to keep the (modified) mohawk hair style?

Harper: I actually just got that. My sister is a beautician, she likes to try out different things on me--just like me when it comes to playing (laughter).

Question: Speaking of playing, how anxious where you to getting your pro career started?

Harper: I was pretty anxious. It’s every kids dream to go out there and play ball. Like I said, taking BP in Big League Parks and stuff like that. I was pretty anxious. I knew if I hadn’t signed, I could have gone back to CSN (College Of Southern Nevada) and have a great season back there again. The coaches there I have played with them before. It would have been a great fit out there also, but I am happy to be a Washington National.

Question: Mike, can you talk about the specifics about where Bryce is going next? And what the plan is for the next couple of weeks?

Rizzo: The plan for Bryce is to prepare him to play in the Florida Instructional League with the rest of our top prospects. That will begin in about two weeks. And from there, we are not sure. There is a possibility he could play in the Arizona Fall League. We are going to take that step by step. And he will prepare for Spring Training next season.

Question: Bryce, you can’t wear the eye black thing anymore. Can you talk about watching Little League kids wearing the eye black because of you.

Harper: Wow. It’s just, like I said, a lot of kids look up to me. To be able to start a trend like that is pretty great (chuckles). I love wearing the eye black. It was me. That’s what made me Bryce. I didn’t wear it for the first couple of games and I struggled. I put it on and, I don’t know, something happened.

Question: Do you know any of the players on The Nationals and have you met Stephen Strasburg?

Harper: I have never met Strasburg, but I met Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. He’s hilarious. He’s one of the funniest guys I have ever met. I’ve met a couple of other guys. But everybody seems nice. It’s really been great. It’s just been a lot of fun coming here, take BP, and meet all the guys. It’s really been a lot of fun.

Question: Bryce, what’s the longest break from baseball you’ve ever had?

Harper: This one. It was bad.

Followup: How long?

Harper: Three months, I think? The last game I played at JUCO (CSN) and that was it. So, I got right back into the cages after about a week off and I got right into the gym. But that was my biggest layoff when I started to work out in June--trying to get bigger--working out with the football team from my high school. I just got right back into the gym and worked every single day with my dad. That was a big thing, keeping my swing (in shape). So yeah, that was a horrible break.

Question: You were actually working out with the football team on the field?

Harper: I would go out there and run routes, catching footballs and putting the pads on---(Pause)--NO JUST KIDDING!! (laughter) I wasn’t trying to start my football career.
I just went out there and worked out. We have a great football program at my high school and the coach is great with the weight program. We have a good weight program there.

Carpenter: You OK Stan (Kasten)? I thought we would have to pick you up off the floor on those football pads? (Mr. Kasten smiles) Stan’s OK.

Question: Bryce, considering the last 10 days, the contract, coming here, being with the media now--what has the last 7-10 days been like for you?

Harper: I haven’t really thought about that. I was home. I was hanging with all my friends, hitting during the day and working out and stuff. I would hang out with my dog (Harley--the black lab). I miss him (seriously). I would hang out with my brother Bryan in South Carolina. I was just generally hanging out here and there--trying to be around my family a lot--get my mom’s food in me.

Question: What has this day been like for you?

Harper: It’s been a lot of fun. I don’t really get starstruck--looking at other players and stuff. I still think it’s cool to be with the pro guys. The guys that have been through it. I’ve been through some of the things Strasburg did. To look back and see that he was going through the same things as me was pretty huge (comforting).

Question: What type of advise were you given on how to handle the media?

Harper: Just like what I am doing right now--smile and have fun.

Question: You talk about not being starstruck, you seem comfortable in this environment. Is there any realization from you that, hey--I’ve kind of arrived?

Harper: No, not really. I am not where I want to be. I am where I want to be, but I am not up to the Big League level right now. I still have a lot of things to prove--a lot of things to do--get bigger, faster, stronger--stuff like that. I am never satisfied with myself, or with anything about me. I always say I can get better and improve every part of my game.
Just come out here, take another round of BP and just have a little bit of fun. But it’s not where I want to be right now.

Final question: Are you going to take your dog to Florida?

Harper: No, I think I will leave him with my mom.

With that final answer-The Bryce Harper Introductory Press Conference concluded.

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