Though Bryce Harper recently turned 23 years old, he is just months away from beginning his fifth season in the major leagues. That may be hard to believe for many of us, as it was not long ago that the now-MVP was taken first overall by the Nationals in the 2010 MLB Draft. Through four years, Harper has blossomed into one of the game's best players, a young superstar who could someday end up as one of baseball's immortal legends.
Part of Harper's development has included mentorship from older players. It was not until this season did he finally play with a teammate younger than him. Throughout his career he has had the benefit of learning from proven veteran ballplayers, some who have had won World Series rings and many who have enjoyed success throughout long MLB careers.
After winning his MVP award on Thursday night, Harper singled out two veterans in particular as players who helped show him the way as a young player.
"I can't thank Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth enough for what they did for me this year and in years past," Harper said.
Both Desmond and Werth have been with the Nationals since Harper made his debut in 2012. Desmond has played for the Nats for his entire seven-year career, but this offseason is expected to sign with another club as a free agent.
"I respect Desi more than anybody. This guy is somebody that I truly look up to as a person. I can't thank him enough for everything he did for me this year," Harper explained.
"I know this guy is not in our clubhouse at this moment, but the way he takes the game so serious. Doing everything I can on a daily basis to have fun and just enjoy it when I play. He's just a great teammate. He's such a great person on and off the field. He's got a great family. I just enjoy being around him. I enjoy playing side-by-side with him every single night. At the end of the day, if you're 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, you've got to have that same mentality every single day."
Werth joined the Nationals before the 2011 season and has played alongside Harper in the outfield. He has been through just about everything in the game of baseball.
"Jayson Werth, he's like a brother to me. He's definitely family," Harper said. "I can't thank him enough for taking me under his wing at age 19 and doing everything he could. He's somebody that I really love playing with. I'm definitely excited to be playing with him next year and play with him for the next couple years. He's taught me so much: how to approach the game, how to win ballgames, how to play in the postseason, how to do it the right way every single day. The guy has been around the game for a long, long time.
"I can't thank him enough for everything he does. If that's taking me out to dinner, if that's hanging out with me in the clubhouse or showing me what a pitcher is doing and their tendencies, it's all around the game. Inside and out. It's been a lot of fun."
Harper thanked many people on Thursday night, but it's clear he has a special admiration for Desmond and Werth, who each played a role in helping him become the player and man he is today.