Nationals

Three straight golds for Walsh, May-Treanor

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Three straight golds for Walsh, May-Treanor

From Comcast SportsNet
LONDON (AP) -- For 11 years, they have been Kerri and Misty, the most recognizable faces in Olympic beach volleyball and a team that dominated the sport. No one could beat them in the Summer Games. And no one will get another chance. In their final competition together, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings beat fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross to extend their Olympic record to 21-0 and win their third gold medal in a row. May-Treanor said she will retire from international play, perhaps to coach and definitely to spend time with her husband, Matt, a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who also travels often for his job. "This is my last match," May-Treanor said. "Beach volleyball's not going to be my career anymore. ... It's time for me to be a wife. I want to be a mom and share time with my family. All of us as athletes sacrifice more on the family end than people realize. And it's getting back to that. My mind says it's time. My body says it's time. And it's the right time." The match started with nearby Big Ben pealing the hour and ended with the "Star-Spangled Banner" rising from the iconic venue in the Prime Minister's backyard, just down the Mall from the royal residence at Buckingham Palace. Playing on Henry VIII's former jousting tiltyard, with the current Prince Harry in the crowd, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor continued their reign as champions of the beach. "I'm just really proud to finish the journey with Misty how we finished it," Walsh Jennings said. "It's been 11 years of really, really fun and crazy times. She's the best there ever has been. To have been with her so long and call her a dear, dear friend and a sister now is the greatest gift ever. I'm glad she went out on top." Dominating the sport for three Olympiads, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor have won every match they've ever played at the Summer Games and lost just one of 43 sets. No one had ever won even two beach volleyball gold medals before the Americans won their second straight in Beijing. No woman had ever won three Olympic beach volleyball medals of any kind. "I know how hard it is to win one tournament. And the amount of tournaments they've won is crazy," said Kessy, who jumped for joy on the medal podium after she and Ross won silver in their Olympic debuts. "For them to do it for years and years and to be on top is just really impressive. We learn a lot from them." Earlier Wednesday, Brazil's Juliana and Larissa beat Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China to win the bronze. Brazil's Emanuel and Alison are scheduled to play Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann of Germany in the men's gold-medal match on Thursday night. Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins of Latvia are slated to play Reinder Nummerdor and Rich Schuil of the Netherlands for the bronze. Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor pulled away midway through the first set of the title match and were never threatened in the second, falling to their knees and hugging as Ross' serve went long on match point. Then they took the celebration to the stands, circling the stadium that was built on the 500-year-old parade grounds now used by the Queen's household cavalry. Walsh Jennings covered her bare shoulders with an American flag and grabbed her children; the older one was a little scared. They high-fived the Horse Guards Parade Dance Team and volunteers and just about anyone holding an American flag. And, with both teams in the final from the United States, there were a lot of them. "It's one thing to play an Olympic final. It's another to play against a team from your county you know so well," said Walsh Jennings, who played with Kessy on a U.S. junior team. "I think the only reason Misty and I are gold medalists is because of those two. They push us so hard. They're one of my favorite teams to beat because they're so good. They've been one of the top teams in the world since they got together. I'm just really grateful that we've had them to come up against because they've made a big difference in our career." May-Treanor returned to the sand for a funky jig to rival the scantily clad dance team that helped bring the beach party atmosphere to the sold-out crowds in central London. "I was like, 'I hope I'm not rubbing it in anybody's face,' but I was so excited," said May-Treanor, a competitor on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2008 before she tore her left Achilles tendon in rehearsal and missed a year on the pro tour. "I just had to get out there and let it out." Matt Treanor watched the gold-medal match in the team's clubhouse on a balky Internet connection that made him miss the final few points. "I'm just real proud of her," he said in the Dodger Stadium dugout. "I am sure she is much more comfortable on the court than I am watching her." During the medal ceremony, the four Americans hugged after receiving their prizes and stood facing the two American flags raised during the national anthem. Despite both a shutout in the men's tournament, the United States matched its best finish since beach volleyball was added to the Olympics in 1996. "I'm happy to be sitting next to another American team up here," May-Treanor said. "For both of us to be in the gold-medal match, it says a lot about our sport, a lot about the teams up here. ... I'm proud about both of us. And I'm just happy about the four of us really sharing this moment. They have no reason to hang their heads down."

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Bryce Harper's 2018 Home Run Derby win by the numbers

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper's 2018 Home Run Derby win by the numbers

Bryce Harper is the 2018 Home Run Derby champion.

In his home ballpark, Harper put on a show Washington won't soon forget.

He ran through a division foe in the first round in Freddie Freeman, took out a strong, hefty lefty in the semifinals in Max Muncy and then hit nine home runs in 47 seconds in the final minute of the final round when it seemed like he had no chance. On the second swing of his 30 seconds of extra time, Harper launched a bomb to deep center field to win.

And while winning the Home Run Derby in his own ballpark is an impressive feat on its own, the numbers behind his victory make it all the more impressive.

3.

He is just the third hometown winner of the Home Run Derby in the history of the event. Todd Frazier did it most recently in 2016 in Cincinnati, and Ryne Sandberg won at Wrigley Field in Chicago in 1990.

13.

Harper won each of the first two rounds with 13 homers. He didn't need his full time in either of the first two rounds.

446 & 441.

Harper's first two home runs of his first-round matchup against Freeman traveled farther than any of the Braves' superstar's dingers.


10.

In the semifinals, Harper only hit three homers in the first minute, but then blasted 10 in his next 11 swings. That's called efficiency.


5.

In the first round, Harper hit five of the 10 longest home runs of anybody in the field.


45.

Harper hit 45 bombs en route to claiming the title. Here's a visual representation of all of them.

That's also how many dollars cheaper Nats tickets will be... oops!


2.

That's John Wall's number and this is him celebrating his fellow D.C. sports superstar's victory.


19,058.

Bryce Harper hit an absurd 19,058 feet of home runs during the 2018 Home Run Derby. That's more than the 5k you ran last year.

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With All-Star Game in Washington, Bryce Harper looks back on baseball life, ahead to uncertain future

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USA Today Sports Images

With All-Star Game in Washington, Bryce Harper looks back on baseball life, ahead to uncertain future

It's quite possible that, despite nearly a decade of being in the spotlight, gracing the cover of magazines and operating as a transcendent star in the sport of baseball, Bryce Harper's attention-drawing powers reached their apex this week in Washington as the 2018 All-Star Game took center stage at Nationals Park.

Harper has played in plenty showcase games before, he's participated in the Home Run Derby, he was the first overall pick in 2010. But this time the Midsummer Classic is in his professional baseball hometown and he is the primary ambassador for both the team and league. 

Oh, and this is also a pretty big year for his future. The 25-year-old is just months away from being one of the most sought after free agents in the history of the sport and perhaps soon the highest paid.

Harper took it all in stride on Monday as he held court in a club level ballroom at Nationals Park on South Capitol St. He knew the questions about his future were coming and he had answers for every single one of them.

Some of those questions included:

Do you ever have guys on other teams try to recruit you?

Has it ever crossed your mind how odd it would be to play somewhere else?

Do you have a relationship with [Yankees star] Aaron Judge?

One reporter didn't even finish his question before Harper sniffed it out.

When you shaved your beard [on June 19]... 

Harper: ..."it was because the Yankees were in town, right. You got it," he said sarcastically. "My beard was getting too long. My wife wanted me to trim it and it was a good idea."

Harper has by most accounts become closed off in recent years. His personality has been withdrawn. He famously began his first spring training press conference earlier this year with a written statement and a warning that any questions about his free agent future would result in him walking out of the room.

At least for a day, Harper was his old and congenial self. Though, he did explain why his personality has changed with the media in recent years.

"I think I've gotten older. I'm not going to say the same things at 16 that I do at 25," he said. "There were things that people did in college that they don't want people to know about. There are things that I've said in the media at 16 or 17 that I guess I was real about. I can't take them back and I don't want to."

Harper has been able to operate throughout the first half of the season while saying very little of substance to the media. The fact his batting average has dipped to just .214 has given him extra reason to put up walls.

As Harper addressed the media, he didn't offer any trademark one-liners, but he did get introspective about his life as a baseball player and his role as the face of the Washington Nationals.

He spoke glowingly about the franchise and the city, about how much he enjoys seeing the same faces every day, from his teammates to those in the front office to stadium employees and security guards. He shared his appreciation for the fans and area kids who look up to him.

The All-Star Game taking place in D.C. offered Harper a chance to reminisce. As Harper looked ahead to the Home Run Derby, he rattled off the most memorable homers he has seen at Nationals Park. 

He mentioned Jayson Werth's walkoff homer in Game 4 of the 2012 NL Division Series. He brought up the time Michael Morse hit one to the top of the Red Porch in left-center and the many times Adam Dunn cleared the third deck in right field.

Harper was asked about his the pressure of playing host and the duress of struggling in a contract year. He told a story from his days at the College of Southern Nevada that put it all into perspective.

"I got absolutely dominated for two weeks prior to our season opening before fall ball. I'm sitting there at 16 years old, I just got back from Team USA," he recalled.

"I got punched out like nine or 10 times in probably a matter of about 12 at-bats against my own team... I sat down and was like 'you know what, I don't want to do this. I want to go back to high school. I want to enjoy those moments and do that.' But I knew that I couldn't do that. I sat down and they said 'you can't come back, you tested out.' I said 'okay, you've gotta cowboy up.' I needed to do what I needed to do. A week later, we started our fall ball season and I went deep in my first at-bat at Cashman Field. The rest is history, I guess you could say."

If Harper had indeed been able to go back to high school, his draft status would have changed. He never would have been drafted first overall by the Nationals in 2010.

Harper feels the pressure of playing in junior college ball with his draft status on the line, playing against guys who were four or five years older than him, was the toughest thing he has done in baseball. It prepared him for all of these moments, just like the media scrutiny did over the years.

"It was only what, [eight] years ago? It's those moments that make you who you are," he said. "I'm 25 years and old and I play this game of baseball every day. What pressure do I have to feel?... It's the game that I love to play. I'm getting chills [right now]. There's nothing greater than running out there wearing No. 34 and being Bryce Harper and loving the game that I play."

Harper remained patient and upbeat for the over 30 minutes that he addressed the media. He was soaking it all in and trying to embrace the attention he was receiving.

But it was one of those questions from above that provided a dose of reality to set in. When asked if it would be strange to play for another team, he reminded the reporters present of what could very well happen this winter.

"It's always a possibility [I leave]. I think that everybody knew that at the beginning of the year, that this could possibly be my last year in D.C. Everybody knows that. There's no elephant in the room. Everybody knows that it's a possibility, but I'm not really focused on that," he said.

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