And the saga continues.
When we last saw our young Washington Nationals top prospect, he was packing his equipment bag into his tricked-out truck and heading north to the foothills of the promised land in Pennsylvania.
Bryce Harper was promoted to minor league’s next level and he couldn’t leave town quick enough. He didn’t let the clubhouse door hit him because he doesn’t plan on sittin’. He left telling the world — depending on how you choose to interpret his comments — about how he was tired of Single-A baseball and/or Hagerstown.
Harper is now heading to bigger things. He went 0-for-4 in the Futures Game, Major League Baseball’s showcase for up-and-coming talent during All-Star week. On Friday, he played his sixth game for the Harrisburg Senators and went 0-for-4.
This is baseball’s version of a soap opera, like The Young and The Restless or All My Children. Or maybe it’s The Bryce Is Right.
No matter how the Summer of ’11 gets labeled, this week’s episode is “The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same.” Consider:
* Harper changed his address, but his cap still sports an “H” and an “S” across his chest to start the team’s nickname.
*For marketing reasons, a town and city have each enhanced their names to highlight him. What used to be Harperstown is now Harpersburg.
*One vowel was switched, but the chant is the same. (“Let’s Go Suns!” to “Let’s Go Sens!”).
*He plays in a bigger ballpark, but it still begins with an ‘M’ — Municipal Stadium and Metro Bank Park. There is still a goofy mascot roaming the stands.
*Harper switched from right field to left field, but he still is learning to play the outfield.
*He may be the new kid, but he instantly became the focal point of his team. Harrisburg scrambled, getting its first Harper T-shirts on Friday during the game.
There are Harper hats and a “Harpersburg” ticket plan, seats for four games in left field behind Harper and a T-shirt for — you guessed it — $34 (which is still his number).
*Three-umpire crews, who call truer strike zones, now officiate games, but Harper still doesn’t believe he can be called out on strikes (twice on Friday).
*Harper now plays in a larger media hub. His availability is still limited and is even tighter than before ... if that is possible.
*With the clubhouse now under the grandstands instead of down the right-field line, Harper can easily avoid contact with fans, but still finds ways to walk past them.
*The fans still populate the first-base line, trying to get that signature, but they are more courteous. They still yell at him when he passes by without signing. To his credit, Harper signs autographs, but usually early before games. Fans have to fit into that time slot.
*Harper’s first six games in Hagerstown were on the road, while his first six with Harrisburg were at home. In each case, he has produced identical .238 averages, going 5-for-21 — all singles — with one stolen base and a three-strikeout game. The difference? He struck out seven times for the Suns and only six for the Senators.
*Harper left Hagerstown three months, 12 days before his next birthday. On Friday, he was down to three months, one day away. Meaning he is still 18.
So, Harper is closer to the big leagues, but still has things to learn. He has doubled the “A”s to his level of play, but he is still in the minor leagues in many ways.
Bob Parasiliti is a sports writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Parasiliti: Everything changes for Harper, but it all seems to stay same
Bob Parasiliti (Joe Crocetta / April 15, 2012)