While Joe was up in the press box last night for Bryce Harper’s home debut, I grabbed a couple of buddies and went to the game so I could experience the historic moment among the fans. Here are my overall thoughts from the game:
Crowd: When I heard that Harper would be called up, I immediately jumped on Stub Hub to grab tickets before the price skyrocketed. I had attended Stephen Strasburg’s debut at Nats Park several years earlier, and it was truly an experience I will never forget. I have never seen Nationals fans that unified in my life, and the energy of the crowd was better than any sporting event I have ever attended.
I expected last night’s game to fall short of that since there was such short notice and it wasn’t Harper’s technical debut, but what I experienced was pretty surprising. Only 22,675 fans were on hand to see the game. A lot of them were Nats fans, but a good portion of the people in my section were actually from Arizona. Harper got a standing ovation when his name was announced and during his first at bat, but in general the welcome fell far far short of the one that was given Stephen Strasburg.
At The Plate: Box score’s don’t tell everything. Say what you will about Harper going 0-3 on the night, he hit the ball hard twice, which sadly enough is a lot more than a lot of other Nats players can say. His ground ball up the middle in his second at bat likely would have been a hit had there not been a shift, and his other ground out was also hit sharply directly at the second baseman.
I think the important point here was that he hit the ball on the ground twice. A lot of times when you see young players enter the league, the pop the ball up a lot. That’s a sign that they’re not seeing the ball well, their timing is off, and they are generally being out matched. Harper has hit a lot of line drives and ground balls. To me this means it’s only a matter of time before they start becoming singles and doubles.
In The Field: Bryce Harper plays left field like a linebacker. It’s quite a site to see. I have never seen anyone so aggressively go after balls, so excited to make a play. Unfortunately this backfired on a few occasions. On one double down the line he bobbled the ball because he was hurrying to try and keep the runner from getting to second. He was lucky that it didn’t result in a third base. On a few other gappers between him and Rick Ankiel you could tell there were instances where he really wanted to get the ball and the throw, but Ankiel took authority.
The Throw: We were sitting right along the right field foul line, so we got a beautiful view of the throw from the time it left his hands to the time it got to Ramos. I have been to hundreds of baseball games since 1987, and never have I seen anything quite like that. The ball didn’t reach the infield until the base runner was halfway home, but the velocity on that thing was so powerful that it managed to go from the outfield grass to the plate faster than the runner could move 45 feet. Really unbelievable.