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Parasiliti: An autograph can be more than a sign of the times

April 11, 2011
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti



Baseball has many functions and identities.

It’s a sport … a diversion … a pastime. Games have been compared to warfare as battles, confrontations and struggles.

This year, Hagerstown Suns baseball will be all that and more. Municipal Stadium will also be an educational setting.

This is where Bryce Harper will learn how to play professional baseball.

Harper is extremely talented. He already plays the game to the best of his talents. He also understands how to deal with its many distractions and demands. Those are prerequisites for the top selection in baseball’s amateur draft.

So, for Harper, Municipal Stadium is like finishing school. It’s where he begins to fuse his God-given abilities and strong upbringing to become a valuable member of the Washington Nationals.

Last Monday was Harper’s first day. It featured a full schedule of classes in Baseball Superstar 101.

It started with the outfielder’s first media conference as a Sun, one of many to come. He followed up with his first workout and batting practice on the home field.

It ended with Harper attending a night class. Call it “A Guide to Public Relations.”

The classroom was at Cancun Cantina for a Meet the Suns event. The unwitting instructor was Maugansville’s Peggy Mothershed, a pint-sized student at Fountaindale Elementary School, half Harper’s age.

The Suns players and coaches sat in a U-shaped string of chairs and tables on the club’s dance floor as season ticket holders filed by for autographs. Harper was the target of most.

Harper rarely looked up as he signed bats, balls, hats, shirts and various other items while the fans tried to welcome him to town. He pasted on a grin as some fans took photos.

Near the end of the session, Peggy came to the head of the class.

Decked out in a blue Suns cap, she presented a ball to Harper, who continued his assembly line-like task.

He signed it and handed it back. Peggy returned the favor by giving Harper the best compliment possible.

Peggy looked at the ball and smiled. Then, she looked Harper in the eye and waved to him. She was polite, controlled, but most of all, very happy.

“My dad told me he was a No. 1 draft pick,” Peggy said. “I was excited to meet him. It was really cool because you usually only get to see (the players) on the field and can only see the names on their backs.”

Peggy displayed the ball, which had the signature of every Sun, yet Harper’s was like a giraffe in a lion’s den.

“His is the only one in blue, so it will stick out,” she said with a grin.

Peggy was satisfied with her prize. She had the modest plan of placing the ball in a special spot in her father’s “baseball room” for safe keeping.

“I’ll keep it there until one of the Suns make it to the Nationals,” she said.

It’s tough to beat the optimism of a child.

Baseball is considered to be grown men playing a little boy’s game.

Bryce Harper straddles that line. At age 18, he is in between being a grown man and a little boy. He knows so much, yet he has much to learn.

Still, maybe it took a little girl — and her smile — to show us all what the game of baseball is truly about.

Bob Parasiliti is a Herald-Mail sports writer. He can be contacted at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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