WASHINGTON, D.C. - Listening to Bryce Harper talk, it's hard to believe he's only 17 years old. His responses during today's 15-minute introductory press conference were subdued, yet mature, to the point where one media member even asked him how he learned how to handle, well, the media.
"Exactly what I'm doing right now," he said. "Smile, and have fun."
That was among the lighter moments of today's press conference, during which Harper addressed everything from his much-discussed batting practice session to why he decided to have a faux mohawk. While he clearly looks and speaks like he's mature beyond his years, he also demonstrated that he still is a kid at heart.
"It felt like home," Harper said about hitting batting practice today. " It was a blast going out there with a couple of the other guys, and it's always fun to hit on a pro field. That's a kid's dream, and I'm like a little kid in a candy store right now."
Harper said he's not worried about how fast he enters the Major Leagues, saying he doesn't have a target year in mind and will let "the higher powers" take care of that. His father, Ron Harper, agreed with his son.
"I don't believe there's a huge rush," Ron Harper said. "If he feels the need to rush, that could backfire."
General manager Mike Rizzo said the team's plan is to prepare Harper to play in the Florida Instructional League in two weeks and potentially have him play in the Arizona Fall League. However, he added that "from [the Florida League,] we're not sure" what will happen with Harper in the near future.
"We're going to take that step by step, and prepare him for spring training next season," he said.
- Harper will wear number 34 because of his devotion to Mickey Mantle. "I grew up loving Mickey Mantle," he said. "When I was a kid, I always wore number seven, so I chose 34 because 3 plus 4 is seven."
- After the press conference, Ron Harper addressed the lingering concerns that Harper is a bit too cocky for his own good. "You have to be confident in this game. It's like you [media] guys. You don't show up every day and say 'I hope I write a mediocre story today.' You have to believe you're the best writer." He added: "[But] you do have to have a fine line there, because this is his job now. He's got to go out there and believe he's the best. He's got to go out there and work hard, and the hard work while keeping your mouth shut is probably the best way to go about it. I want him to be humble. You're right, people can mistake [your confidence] for something else, but he works really really hard and he's confident."
- Ron Harper also said that he wants his son to remember the negative coverage to fuel his fire, though not necessarily because he needs to specifically prove everyone wrong. It's more that it will help ensure that he works hard
- Scott Boras, Harper's agent, said what most impressed him about Harper was Harper's devotion to going to junior college. "He really took on a unique academic challenge, which was to go to college, take courses and take a GED exam. That shows what that says about Bryce academically as well as his talent."
- Harper was asked how he was able to perfect his swing. He thanked his father and said that it took "a lot of work in the [batting] cage," before finally admitting, "I really don't know how I was able to get that swing. [Like], I do, but I don't know where I generate all that power from."
- In case you were wondering about Harper's mohawk of sorts, here's how he explained his decision to get it. "My sister is a beautician, and she's tried a few different things on me. The ladies like it."
- Harper said he hasn't met Stephen Strasburg yet, but did enjoy hanging out with several players today, saying that Adam Dunn in particular "might be one of the funniest guys I've ever met."
- Harper was so anxious with his inactivity that he actually played football at his local high school while trying to get his contract figured out.
- Harper admitted he's already started to receive some instructional work on how to play outfield.
- As is their custom, the Nationals had Ryan Zimmerman, the "face of the franchise" as Mike Rizzo put it, formally put the Nationals jersey on Bryce Harper. I'd post pictures, but they were pretty blurry, so you'll just have to take my word for it.