At 20, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is a genuine phenom. In 2010 he won the Golden Spikes Award for best amateur player in the country, and in his first MLB season Harper was named National League Rookie of the Year. But despite being one the league’s best young players, he’s still a humble guy.
BL: What’s the first thing you remember about baseball?
B.H.: I just remember really wanting to play with my dad and my brother (Bryan Harper, who also plays with the Nationals). Even as a kid, it meant a lot to play with my family. It’s really a family sport.
BL: How did your family help you?
B.H.: They helped in good times and bad times. Sometimes, I didn’t want to play baseball because I was struggling. They’d push me hard, though. My dad or mom would say, “Hey, get going. If you work at it, you’re going to be able to fulfill your dream and play professional baseball.”
BL: You hit a ball about 600 feet in high school and it got a ton of attention.
B.H.: (Laughing) Hitting home runs usually catches people’s eyes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big home run or if it just gets over the fence. When I hit that one in school, everyone watched it go. And it blew up from there.
BL: Part of your contract was for the team to pay for you to attend college. Why was that important?
B.H.: Education is always high on my list. I want to further my education just in case things in baseball don’t work out. Originally, I wanted to be a firefighter and I respect them. I might do that if things don’t work out. But I fully expect to play baseball for something like 20 years.
BL: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
B.H.: The team winning the NL East was the biggest thrill. Everybody I’ve played with has helped me tremendously. That’s what I’ll remember. Hopefully, we’ll keep doing that and play at a high level for years to come.
BL: On Twitter you said you work out twice a day. What’s your workout like?
B.H.: It’s really long. Let’s put it this way: I probably work out six or seven hours a day. But everyone who plays this game works hard every single day of their lives. I always think I can do better and try to learn something every single day.
BL: A lot of kids look up to you. Part of that is because you’re not much older than they are. What do you say to them?
B.H.: Just enjoy the game in every way you can. Keep dreaming, not only about baseball. If you don’t have dreams, you don’t have a life. That’s my motto.
– Harold Goldberg