One of the game’s most exciting prospects will play at the Diamond this weekend. The overall first pick of the 2010 draft is a new outfielder for the AA Harrisburg Senators, who begin a weekend series with the Squirrels on Friday night. On why Richmonders should watch the teenage phenom.
UPDATE (2): Byrce Harper’s current minor league team, the Harrisburg Senators, will be in Richmond to play the Flying Squirrels beginning this evening. In an unusual six-game, four-day series, it is unlikely that Harper will participate in every game, but last year’s top draft pick will likely see a fair share of playing time.
Below is an article that was written to precede Harper’s first original appearance in town on July 8. We also have a current update on the Flying Squirrels.
This afternoon it was announced that Major League Baseball requested the presence of Bryce Harper a day early for the Futures Games to be held in Phoenix, AZ. As a result, Harper will not be playing with the Harrisburg Senators, who will play a weekend series at the Diamond beginning tomorrow night. It is expected that Harper will play with the Senators when they return to Richmond for a July 21-24 series.
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What did you do at sixteen? Drive a car? Go on your first date? If you’re Bryce Harper Sports Illustrated featured you on their cover, hawking you as the “most exciting prodigy since Lebron.” A sweeter sixteen could scantly be envisaged for an aspiring professional baseball player.
In Summer 2010, the team with the first choice in Major League Baseball’s annual draft, the Washington Nationals, selected Harper as their first-round pick. According to MLB rules, draft picks have until August 15 to sign with the selecting team, or else they re-enter next year’s pool of draft picks. The Nationals signed Harper mere seconds before the midnight deadline, inking him to a five-year $9.9 million contract in the late hour. Beginning Friday, the Richmond Flying Squirrels will host Harper and his current team, the Harrisburg Senators, in a four-game series between Friday and Sunday.
“Having a super-prospect like Harper is one of the great things about minor league baseball,” said Todd “Parney” Parnell, Vice President and COO of the Flying Squirrels. “[He’s] one of the most talented players to come along in ages.”
The Las Vegas-native hit a home run in 2008 that coaches at his Las Vegas High School measured at 570 feet. Harper skipped his final two years of high school, earning a GED instead, a move specifically done to assure his eligibility in the 2010 draft, making the title Sports Illustrated bestowed to him, the “Chosen One,” all the more befitting.
His professional makeup is not without some misgivings. In early June, Harper homered off the Greensboro Grasshoppers. As he approached homeplate during his trot around the bases, Harper mouthed a kiss to the opposing pitcher. The episode prompted some to debate Harper’s professionalism in light of his excessive talent, talent that has allowed a young player to quickly ascend the professional baseball ladder. The Nationals are so protective of their budding ball player, that they forbid one-on-one interviews between Harper and the media. After batting practice prior to Friday’s game in Richmond, Harper will speak to reporters in a group setting. The Squirrels have handed out more media credentials than typical.
The Nationals recently promoted the 19 year-old to their AA Harrisburg Senators affiliate. Beginning Friday, the Flying Squirrels will host the Senators in a rare four-game weekend series that includes a traditional “twi-night” double header on Saturday. The Nationals skipped Harper out of the upper-level single-A division, in part because of Harper’s impressive numbers, batting .318 with 14 homers, 46 RBIs, and 19 steals in 72 games with his former team, the Hagerstown Suns. It’s likely that Harper will remain with Harrisburg Senators for the remainder of the season, although there is a possibility he will be called-up to the Nationals when the MLB team rosters expand to 40 players during the September Call-Ups on the first of that month.
Speaking of how Harper’s visit has affected ticket sales, even before Harper and the rest of the Harrisburg team arrives in Richmond, Parnell said, “It’s already helped.” The Vice President of the Flying Squirrels lauded the young talent in the Nationals’ organization, saying, baring the unforeseen, Harper will be a star for “years and years to come.” With the Nationals recent success, and the proximity of the city to Washington D.C., there is a growing number of Nationals fans in the greater-Richmond area, fans that will likely want a glimpse of the Nationals’ future.
Parnell says this of himself and the Flying Squirrels: “We’re in the memory-making business.
photo by Chamber of Fear