NEW YORK — Bryce Harper’s first-ever trip to Yankee Stadium as a major leaguer included a requisite stop by Monument Park and an equally requisite hounding by New York media members who tried to get the Nationals’ young star to admit he would like to wear pinstripes some day.
Harper, showing impressive maturity beyond his 22 years, refused to take the bait when asked if he ever thinks about playing for the Yankees later in his career.
“I love the Nationals,” Harper said. “I enjoy the fans that support me in right field every single day. I love running out there and seeing them out there. The Nats are such a great organization. Mr. Ted Lerner gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues. It’s such a fun time. We have such a great team here. We enjoy it every single day. We look at every single day as a new day and go in and have the same mentality and try to play every single day. D.C. is such a great place to play.”
Harper did admittedly grow up a Yankees fan in Las Vegas, citing Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams among his favorite players to watch and Mickey Mantle as one of his all-time favorites. (He wears No. 34 in part as a tribute to Mantle, with the 3 and 4 adding up to the Mick’s retired No. 7.)
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Though this is Harper’s first-ever trip to the Bronx as a big-league player, he has been here twice before: Once at the old Yankee Stadium as a fan, then once at this new incarnation as part of a pre-draft workout.
Asked why the Yankees appealed to him growing up, Harper responded: “The pinstripes. Everything about them. It’s the Yankees.”
Harper’s childhood fan preferences have long prompted people around the game to speculate he’ll actively seek to sign with the Yankees once he becomes a free agent (which won’t happen until after the 2018 season).
Pressed on that possibility Tuesday, Harper doubled down on his commitment to his current organization.
“Like I said, I enjoy playing for the Nationals,” he said. “I enjoy going out there every single day. Our goal in the organization is to win a World Series. If I can bring that back to D.C. and bring that back to the city, that’s what I want to do. I’ve said it all along.”