Bryce Harper relishes final home game of season
National manager Dave Martinez turned 54 on Wednesday and it goes without saying one of his wishes would be to write the name of Bryce Harper on his lineup card for Opening Day in 2019.
Harper has become close to the rookie manager and Martinez said they have shared many moments in the manager’s office, both home and away, this season.
What advice does Martinez give to Harper, who will be a free agent after this season?
“What I have always said is take care of the seconds,” Martinez said, while sitting in the Nationals’ dugout before Wednesday’s home finale with the Miami Marlins. “The minutes, hours and days take care of themselves. Enjoy every second and things will work out; be proud of what you have done. You have done an amazing job here the past six years. Hopefully it will be a lot longer. I truly believe that. Be proud of what you have done. Your future is bright.”
Harper was the first overall pick by the Nationals in June 2010 and made his big league debut with Washington in April 2012. He entered Wednesday with 34 homers, 100 RBI and 101 runs scored this season, with a league-high 129 walks and a .246 batting average.
The Nationals end the season with three games in Denver this weekend and Harper plans to have family members there. Washington, the two-time division champs, were knocked out of playing contention Saturday.
Harper was at the ballpark in full home uniform three hours before Wednesday’s home finale, realizing this could be the last time he wears the white No. 34 jersey for Washington. Harper said one of his favorite moments was the walkoff homer by teammate Jayson Werth to beat the Cardinals in the 2012 playoffs.
The left-handed hitter has seen the Nationals become an annual contender, with four division titles since 2012 after the franchise lost 100 games before Harper made the majors.
“I am proud of that,” he said. “Just being able to see this organization grow from the ground up. We compete every single year. We have a lot of guys who can play the game. It is a lot of fun to be a part of. It is fun.”
Harper has played for managers Davey Johnson, Matt Williams, Dusty Baker and now Martinez.
“Davey has done a great job for us,” Harper said. “He has been unbelievable. We enjoy what he does. He is never down. He is always positive, he always wants to win ballgames. He is a blast to play for.”
Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the face of the franchise before Harper became a superstar, has seen the Harper emerge from a teenager into a 25-year-old married man.
Zimmerman has watched Harper mature.
“More as a person than a player,” Zimmerman told The Washington Times on Wednesday. “We all knew the talent he had. Watching him come here as a kid, he had never really been on a team for a long time. To grow up, get married, get to know his family a little bit ... it has been fun to watch. He has come a long way. He has worked at the other parts (as a person) as well. Hopefully I get a chance (as a teammate) to do it more.”