By Rich Dubroff
At 22, Bryce Harper is an All-Star starter for the second time. Harper was voted in as a starter for the July 14 game at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark.
Harper, who named the youngest starter in All-Star Game history in 2013, and was also on the team in 2012, is among the National League leaders in key offensive categories.
He received 13.9 million votes, most in National League history.
“I enjoy being an All-Star. I enjoy being around other guys and just hanging out. I think that’s the best part, being on the field and playing with the guys you don’t every get to play with,” Harper said.
Entering Sunday’s game, Harper was batting .344 with 25 home runs and 60 RBIs. He also has 57 runs, a .470 on-base percentage and .719 slugging percentage.
Harper thanked the fans, his teammates and manager Matt Williams.
“He’s there for me every single day. If I need something on a pitcher or if I’m not feeling right, he’s tries to keep me calm,” Harper said.
“A lot of credit to Ian Desmond. He’s one of the guys that keeps me on an even keel,” Harper said. “He just helps me out on a daily basis.”
Williams returned the compliment.
“For me, the differences I see this year as opposed to last year, he’s patient, he’s calm. The numbers are really good, of course. We’ve all seen that. He’s taken the steps that he wants to take to become the player that he wants to be, naturally,” Williams said.
“I think he’s taken big steps. We saw that last year in the postseason. He’s continued that through the first half of this year. We’re proud of him. He’s zoned into the strike zone and done well for us hitting in the middle of the lineup and our leader.”
Harper has said that he wouldn’t participate in the home run hitting contest the day before the All-Star Game unless his father, Ron pitched to him. The elder Harper recently had rotator cuff surgery.
“I’m not sure yet,” Harper said. “I told them I’d give them an answer tomorrow about that. I’ll see how I feel and what I want to do.”
The pitchers and reserves will be named on Monday night, and Williams said that he’d like additional Nationals on the team.
“I’ve made my feelings known. I’d love to see them there. It’s out of our control, certainly, but we can lobby for our guys. I think they’ve all played hard through the first 81, and will continue to do so till the break. We’d love to see as many as we can there. We want to represented, for sure,” Williams said.