Harper returns to spotlight in Futures Game
Nationals phenom to be joined by pitcher Peacock on US roster
WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will be on center stage once again in a few weeks. He will play in the 2011 Futures Game for the U.S. in Phoenix on July 10.
The news comes two days after Harper played in the South Atlantic All-Star Game, a game in which he went 0-for-2 with an RBI. Harper said his first All-Star appearance will not compare to what he will go through in Arizona.
"[Playing in the recent All-Star] game was awesome, but I feel it's just a miniature game compared to the Futures Game," Harper said. "I was around a group of guys in the Sally League that are going to be big leaguers one day, but being able to go to the Futures Game and play there, it's going to be an incredible experience."
Harper will be joined on the U.S. Team by Double-A right-hander Brad Peacock, the Nationals' other representative at the event.
Peacock is considered the best pitching prospect in the Nationals organization. Entering Thursday's action, Peacock is 8-2 with 2.46 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings for Harrisburg.
His success this year has made people in the Nationals' front office believe that he will be in the Major League rotation behind Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann in the future.
The 13th annual Futures Game can be seen live on MLB.TV, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD and followed live on MLB.com's Gameday on Taco Bell All-Star Sunday, July 10, at 6 p.m. ET. In addition, XM Radio will broadcast play-by-play coverage of the event live on XM 175.
MLB.com will provide complete coverage before, during and after the game, and you can keep up to date by following @MLBFutures on Twitter. Fans can join the Futures Game conversation by tagging tweets with #mlbfutures.
Major League Baseball, along with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, MLB.com, Baseball America, USA Baseball and the 30 Major League Baseball clubs, selected the 25-man rosters for each club. Each organization is represented, and the World Team features players from 12 countries and territories. Players from all full-season Minor Leagues were eligible to participate.
While playing in the Futures Game, Harper wants people to know that he is an easy-going guy who loves playing the game of baseball -- not the player who caused controversy when he blew a kiss to Greensboro pitcher Zachary Neal after hitting a home run.
"Baseball is my life," Harper said. "I'm going to give 110 percent every single day, no matter what. I'm just going out there to have some fun and enjoy [the experience]."
In addition to being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft and being labeled baseball's version of LeBron James, Harper has proven that he can play with professionals. In 64 games for Class A Hagerstown, Harper is hitting .330 with 14 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .429 on-base percentage.
But Harper is a self-described perfectionist. He'll be the first to say that he needs to work on certain parts of his game. He doesn't like that he strikes out often (55 times). Even though he has a respectable on-base percentage, Harper wants to draw more walks. He even wants to improve his play in the outfield.
"I hope I have a better second half than I did the first," Harper said. "I could always get better. You can always progress in hitting, baserunning and in the outfield. I would like my strikeouts to be down a little bit more, my walks to be higher. There are still a lot of things that I can get done while I'm down here.
"During the first half, I got into some slumps. I had to [get out of slumps]. I was happy to get going again. I had had a lot of fun with these guys on my team. We have a great core of guys, who want to be there every single day. [Hagerstown manager Brian] Daubach does a great job for us."
Harper acknowledged he had to get used to playing baseball on a daily basis. Sometimes, Harper said he has to "trick myself" into playing baseball every day. Before being drafted, Harper played baseball two to three times a week.
"It's a grind, like everybody said. You really don't understand it until you play it every single day," Harper said. "It's a full season. It's great. You try to play and work hard every single day. I give it 110 percent every single time."
With his success in Hagerstown, Harper sounded like a person who would like to get a promotion soon. When asked what's ahead for him, Harper said, "Hopefully go up to Double-A and play well. Hopefully that will happen.
"Wherever I go -- Class A or High A, Double-A, Triple-A, whatever -- I want to have some fun," Harper said. "I'm going to play hard. If I get to go up, that would be great. I'm not thinking about that right now. I'm just ready to go out there and try to win the second half for Hagerstown."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.