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Keller: I guess they won't rename stadium for Harper

July 06, 2011
  • Mark Keller, Herald-Mail Sports Editor
Mark Keller, Herald-Mail Sports Editor

So Bryce Harper wanted out of Hagerstown, eh?

Like that’s such a big surprise. How many of you Hagerstown natives out there have never felt that way?

Well, Harper said it, and as proud Hagerstonians are likely preparing to jump with both feet on the Washington Nationals’ top draft pick last year, it’s probably not what he meant.

Harper got his wish Sunday night when he learned the Nationals had promoted him from the low Single-A Hagerstown Suns to the Double-A Harrisburg Senators.

Prior to his second game with Harrisburg on Tuesday, Harper told CSN that he was “really not too focused” in his last 20 games with the Suns and “was wanting to get out of there.”

Now, I don’t think it was specifically Hagerstown that he wanted to leave. More likely, he just wanted to get the heck out of Single-A baseball, particularly low-A baseball. And what’s wrong with that?

He knows bigger and better things are ahead for him. So why shouldn’t he be eager to get on with them?

You’re the Washington Nationals. Do you want your $9.9 million man happy that he’s in Single-A ball? Granted, you don’t want him dogging it while he is there, but the whole point of his being here was to get his feet wet in the pro game before sending him on up the ladder.

Like it or not, Harper was placed on the path to the majors and stardom long before he arrived in Hagerstown. He gained national notoriety when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16, and he certainly was on the radar of pro scouts for months — if not years — before that.

His stop in the Hub City was little more than a potty break at the beginning of a long drive, and that’s probably all it was intended to be.

As much as the Nationals want to say that there is or was no timetable for Harper, the team must have had some idea when this move was coming.

Conventional wisdom seemed to be that Harper would spend about half the season in Hagerstown, move to Double-A for the rest of 2011, start 2012 in Triple-A before making the jump to the majors sometime after the All-Star break.

Barring some monumental hot streaks or cold spells, that timeline looks to be the one that’s playing out.

Harper was criticized often in his three months with the Suns, for everything from snubbing autograph requests to the now infamous “kiss” to a Greensboro pitcher during a home-run trot.

Yet few acknowledge the good things Harper did while he was here, such as being the first Sun out of the clubhouse last week when players from the local Challenger Division of Little League Baseball took the field at Municipal Stadium. Harper made it a point to shake hands with every player.

In a world of social networking and instant news access, it was impossible for Harper to take the field in Hagerstown without fans having a preconceived notion about him — both as a player and as a person. The same will hold true in Harrisburg, at Triple-A Syracuse and in Washington.

He’s been called cocky, arrogant, spoiled and immature — and at times he lived up to some of those descriptions.

Any other 18-year-old who has the world at his feet — and $10 million in the bank — like Harper does would display those same traits.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7728 or by email at keller@herald-mail.com.

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