05/07/12 7:50 PM ET
One on one with Nats' young slugger Harper
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
Harper is already hitting in the middle of the order, and with the injury to Jayson Werth, the 19-year-old will now be the everyday right fielder.
MLB.com caught up with Harper before Sunday's game to talk about his experiences in the big leagues.
MLB.com: You have been in the big leagues for more than a week. What do you think about your experience with the Nationals?
Bryce Harper: I'm excited to be here, I tell you that. It's a great time to be up here. We have a great team, a lot of veteran presence. We have a lot of young guys that could play also. It really helps having [Adam] LaRoche, [Rick] Ankiel, [Jayson] Werth and all the guys that can really talk to me, help me. It's really great to be here. It's an exciting time for us.
MLB.com: I see you talking to Werth all the time. What have you learned from the veterans like Werth and LaRoche?
Harper: I talk to Werth about baserunning and the outfield. I talk to LaRoche about my swing, what he does against lefties, what his approach is at the plate. He is a power guy. He hits the ball really well. He is one of the hottest hitters right now. To have him around, Werth around, Zim [Ryan Zimmerman] and guys who have been here and have done it, it has really been huge for me. I think it's huge for everyone in this clubhouse.
MLB.com: You went from batting seventh in the lineup to hitting in the third spot. Are you surprised the team is relying so heavily on you?
Harper: I just try to come in here and put a spark into us, really put a fire into everybody. I'm trying to come in here and have some fun, smile and laugh. That's the biggest thing. I think having guys on our club that love to play this game, love to be here, makes it fun for everybody. Everybody wants to come into the park every single day and play the game of baseball. Everybody on our team loves this game. They want to play hard and play it right. Having an organization that preaches to play hard ... is huge for us all.
MLB.com: You are hustling all the time. You even run to the dugout after the third out is made. Why do you do it?
Harper: I just think it's a respect for the game. I think those old-school players really played the game hard, they played it right. That's what I wanted to do. I want to play this game as hard as I can, play this game right every single day. I'm going to give this club 110 percent every single day. They are not going to get anything less. I live in that at-bat. I live and die in that at-bat. I live and die for that game that day. I don't look forward. I don't look behind. I just keep going every day, stay in that moment and play the game hard. I think everybody on our team plays the same way.
MLB.com: Ever since Sports Illustrated called you the LeBron James of baseball, the publicity has been overwhelming. How much have you accepted all that publicity?
Harper: Once Sports Illustrated came out, the hype and the pressure went through the roof. I just knew I needed to go out and play my game I've been playing my whole life -- not think that I'm bigger than the game, not think I'm bigger than anyone out there. I think everybody that plays in the big leagues is great. You get to the big leagues, you are one of the top players in the world. Going out there and playing with the top guys in the world, playing against the top guys in the world is just a blessing every day. ... I go out there, respect the game, play hard, keep my mouth shut and play.
MLB.com: I think it's pretty obvious you are staying in the Major Leagues. What does the future hold for you?
Harper: I'm not sure. I just going to bust my butt every day, play this game hard, play it right. I think we have a team that can make it to the playoffs, play it well and get deep into the playoffs. We have a great pitching staff. Being the way they are, our pitching staff and our bullpen are really going to help us out. Having [Michael] Morse and Zimmerman coming back -- hopefully soon -- that is going to put a huge spark into our lineup. It's going to be an exciting time for this town and this city. It's going to be fun to get deep into the playoffs, and hopefully, make it to the World Series.
MLB.com: How far can this team go this year?
Harper: I'm not going to answer that question. It's early right now, but I really know what we can do. Everybody plays a part every single day. Like I said, we have one of the best staffs in baseball. Everybody knows we have a good staff. I think in the next couple of years, everybody is going to shoot for us, and hopefully, we can keep it all going.
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.