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Bryce Harper's first day in Arizona

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Bryce Harper arrived at the Arizona Fall League late last night, and this morning he began a new experience with a familiar scene. When he boarded the team bus in Scottsdale for a trip to Surprise at 9:15 a.m., eight or so autograph hounds were there, waiting for Harper. He signed for all of them. On the bus, his teammates joked they're glad they're not him.

Harper knew he would not play; because he's on the "taxi squad" for the Scottsdale Scorpions, he'll play only twice per week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This morning, he met Manager Randy Knorr -- who also manages Class AA Harrisburg. "It's going to be tough for you because you're not playing all the time," Knorr told him. "Sit back, watch how guys do their stuff and go from there."

"It's going to be difficult playing only two times a week, but he'll be all right," Knorr said. "He's going to work a lot the days that he's not playing. Hopefully, I wear him out so much that he's not so bored during games he can't play."

On his first day working out, Harper blended in. After he stretched with his teammates, he jogged out to right field. He played catch with Xavier Avery, an Orioles outfield prospect. He shagged in right-center field, attentive and purposeful. He took batting with the third and final group.

On Harper's last swing, he drilled a long drive to left-center. Caleb Joseph, an Orioles catching prospect also on the taxi squad, played announcer while standing behind the batting cage. "Back, back, back, back" -- and the, as the ball landed in the bullpen -- "it's over!"

During batting practice, Harper hit four home runs in 20 or so swings, a strong first impression. Harper stands apart from his teammates, talented as they are. He is, at 18 years and 2 days, the youngest player on the team by nearly two years. He signed for a record signing bonus as the first pick in the draft. He's the only one here who has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The list goes on.

But you wouldn't notice by watching Harper interact with his new teammates. He lingered with the Nationals contingent out in the field as batting practice began. Behind the cage, he chatted comfortably with Marc Krauss, a Diamondbacks outfield prospect, while he took warm-up swings.

Since he just arrived to a team that's been together for a week, it may seem like a difficult transition for Harper. But, "not with this group," Knorr said. "It doesn't matter who comes in. They're going to put their arm around and say, 'Come on. This is what we do. Let's have some fun.' He's going to fit right in. We're fortunate with the guys we have. They're all pretty good guys. They all like to come, play ball and have fun."

On Wednesday, Harper will become the second-youngest player to ever participate in an Arizona Fall League game. It is the best competition minor league baseball can offer -- "It's like having an all-star team out there every day," Knorr said. No one seems worried.

"It is going to be a challenge for him," Knorr said. "But I think he's going to be able to handle it. I think he's going to surprise a lot of people. Already, taking BP, I think the guys are already impressed with him."

One more note from Surprise: Class A Potomac catcher Derek Norris, a top Nationals prospect, was in the lineup today as a designated hitter before getting scratched late. The reason isn't yet known, but it doesn't seem like anything is amiss. Norris caught in the bullpen and took batting practice before the game with no apparent issues.

By Adam Kilgore  | October 18, 2010; 4:34 PM ET
Categories:  Bryce Harper  
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Next: Yu Darvish staying put this season

Comments

Thanks for the Surprise post. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 18, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

absolutely! looking forward to plenty more updates from the AFL, even about players not named Harper :)

Posted by: Rogueone | October 18, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Ditto... hope Adam can keep 'em coming!

Posted by: skidge | October 18, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

A top Orioles catching prospect? So...trade bait?

Posted by: Colm1 | October 18, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

See! the orioles have a catching prospect! you nationals fans are fans of a crappy team! you'll never win a game again! Matt wieters is the bomb! nats suck! nats fans suck! my mom says I have 10 more minutes to rag on you before I have to catch the bus for my shift at McDonalds!

- poopy mcpoop

Posted by: Section406 | October 19, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Yes, more on this please. I'm more interested in the AFL (and not just Harper) than this year's postseason.

I'm also more into the AFL than the NFL -- which I guess has a different meaning now than it used to.

Posted by: KenNat | October 19, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I recomend "Sue Dinem" overat nationalsprospects.com. He gives daily doings on Scottsdale. Glad to hear Norris is okay. I went on the AFL scoreboard to see what he had done last night and saw that he did not play. Burgess got a hit and an rbi but is still strugglng at .231.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | October 19, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Interesting change in Harper's swing: previously, his load would consist of barely lifting up his right foot (if at all), and turning the right foot inwards. If you take a look at the video, he now has a clear lift with his right foot/leg, and is not turning the right foot in. The latter, if done correctly, results in more drive. Self change, or something he was taught down in Viera?

Posted by: joemktg1 | October 19, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, AK, for reporting on the Fall League in the middle of covering the MLB playoffs.

Posted by: greggwiggins | October 19, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

joemktg1 -

Good analysis of the change in Harper's swing. After reading your post, I watched the video again and noticed it too. I would think that the new load will result in better balance at the plate, which Harper will need when facing better off-speed pitches.

Posted by: SpashCity | October 19, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Too bad Rizzo couldn't pull his head out and put Harper on the full team so he could play every day. Dude can't do anything right. Like it was a big surprise that he could hit instructional league pitching. Sheer stupidity not to do that. Who knows how many ABs he cost him. I mean, the kid's already down there, now he can't play.

Posted by: Brue | October 19, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Brue, nobody plays everyday in the AFL. Most likely he is only missing out on 1 additional game a week. Nothing to get all hot and bothered about.

Posted by: 3B11 | October 19, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

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