It was labeled as the must watch game of the evening. It was Bryce Harper’s first game in one of the oldest and proudest baseball cities on the east coast, and all he did was go 3-5 with a double and a homer. In other words Bryce Harper inhaled the pressure and put on a display the likes of which won’t soon be forgotten.
This is Harper’s reputation. All throughout his life he has been the one who wants to play on the biggest stage and have the bat in his hands with the game on the line. Harper doesn’t want to avoid the spotlight or the pressure of being a major league baseball player he embraces it and relishes the attention that surrounds him. With a chance last evening in front of a large media contention and the eyes of national media turned on this series Harper delivered what may be his best performance to date.
There is only one small problem about this. It is hard to watch Harper’s 430 homer exit to center field in Boston and not start to wonder if Harper either faked his birth certificate, came from another planet, or is a baseball destroying machine created in some lab. Harper in no way plays like a 19 year old kid. There are times when he comes to the plate with the bases loaded and goes for the kill shot only to whiff and turn back to the dugout in disappointment, but those times are few and far.
Most of the time Harper stands at the plate with his bat cocked and his eyes focused on the pitcher and his delivery. His keen senses give him an advantage few have when he is quickly able to pick up the rotation on the ball and knows what to lay off of and what to swing at, and among rookies Harper is seeing more breaking pitches than anyone else. It is that bit of extra perception that Harper has the really raises the question of what planet was destroyed by civil war causing his birth parents to send him to Earth where he was found be a young couple in the Nevada desert.
Since being called up to the majors to replace the injured Jayson Werth in the outfield Harper has hit .288/.367/.532. To put this in historical perspective Harper’s OBP would rank second among players all-time in their age 19 season behind only Mel Ott and his .397 OBP. Harper’s .532 SLG would be the best all time for a 19 year old in the big leagues ahead of Ton Conigliaro and his .530 SLG.
Ott and Conigliaro had their age 19 seasons in 1928 and 1964 respectively. It has been a long time since the world has seen a 19 year old this good, but Harper might not be any normal 19 year old. He could have faked his age, be a genetically engineered super human, an alien from another planet, or a cyborg. Any of these is an option as well as Harper simply being one of those rare talents that makes watching him play one of the greatest sporting pleasures that can be experienced.