HAGERSTOWN—The players shagging flies in the outfield learned quickly to read Harper’s swing. They faded to the fence on the first few, which changed to turning and watching shortly thereafter.
By the time Harper started his Round 3 spree, the fielders stood like they were posing for a team picture. They never flinched or turned to watch the ball leave.
They were that sure of the final destination. The kids playing basketball behind the right-field wall needed hard hats.
Harper tried to work the ball around the field in the final round, but still took his first swing out of the park.
Nine of Harper’s 20 swings were homers to end a good day’s work. He took his bats and headed to the clubhouse to get ready for the bigger test than grooving his swing.
He returned shortly and mingled with the Suns down along the left-field fence to sign autographs. Harper’s little patch of Municipal heaven was vastly more populated than the areas for the rest of the team.
Harper signed for about 10 minutes in left field, getting as many as possible, before stepping away.
One fan offered Harper his children. Others were squeamish because he didn’t sign for them.
Harper began to leave the field and stopped near the Suns’ dugout to sign more autographs for about 10 minutes. He stayed true to his word, trying to sign for as many youngsters as possible.
He signed balls and hats and even a copy of a Washington Post magazine with that had his photo on the cover.
“Yes ... thanks Bryce,” said that lucky young fan.
“Bryce ... You are awesome,” another yelled.
Harper slowly worked his way along the fence. Fans who were in left field came charging around the concourse for another chance to get their Holy Grail.
Those who were left behind near the dugout rushed farther down the fence, almost like they were trying to get to the finish line of a marathon, to try and get Harper’s sweeping signature.
In the end, Harper hit nearly .500 for the day all around. Nine homers in 20 swings and about half the autograph requests. Those who got the scribbling, reveled. Those that didn’t, grumbled.
In reality, the evening wasn’t the true Bryce Harper experience. There wasn’t a game, just a dress rehearsal.
It wasn’t a sporting event. Weather made it more like waiting for a table at a crowded restaurant.
Tuesday should have served to whet some appetites. The feast will be served in Hagerstown on April 15 at the home opener.