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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 02/21/2011

Bryce Harper takes the field at Nationals spring training

By Adam Kilgore

bryce.jpg

Bryce Harper arrived at Nationals spring training today, and with him came the crowd. He walked to Field 4, a swarm of people inching toward him, watching. Harper warmed up, stretching with the rest of the Nationals' early-arriving position players and playing toss with Roger Bernadina. Then he trotted to Field 2 for batting practice.

He shagged for a while in right, standing next to Tony Tarasco, the minor league coach who Harper credits for his transition to the outfield during last fall's instructional league. After a while, a coach by the batting cage hollered, "Group 2!" The dozen people sitting on aluminum bleachers behind the backstop sat up straight, and about a dozen more lined the fence.

Harper hit third in a group with first baseman Chris Marrero and utility infielder Brian Bixler. He took roughly 40 swings and clocked four homers, all to right field - no oppo boppos. Nationals front office special assistant Davey Johnson sat in a golf cart nearby and watch. As Harper swung, countless cell phones snapped pictures.

When batting practice stopped, Harper moved to Field 1 and sat in shallow center field with a group of Nationals veteran outfielders, listening to a coach as infielders took ground balls. He jogged toward the dugout, ahead of the others, and shook hands with Steven Souza, a minor league infielder who had come to practice early. Souza and Harper became friends during the instructional league.

"He's a great kid," Souza said. "i think he'll be just fine."

When his short workout ended, the real challenge began. Trying to walk off the field, a small mob of 50 fans surrounded him, thrusting pens, paper and magazine covers in his face. He signed for several minutes, at which point security and a Nationals public relations official led him away.

The Nationals, after Stephen Strasburg's time in spring last year, are accustomed to the scene. But some, including Manager Jim Riggleman, are concerned.

"He couldn't have got out of there," Riggleman said. "He needs to be able to sign a few and get back in here, do the things he's got to do in the weight room, have something to eat. He'd have been out there for an hour. It can't be like that.

"You've got to be able to have a little freedom to keep moving. He was just smothered, you know? It kind of almost needs to be an atmosphere - and same thing with Strasburg - where it's a little more controlled. You can't just have a mass of people sticking pens at him."

Afterward, Riggleman indicated Harper would spend between seven and 10 games with the Nationals' major league camp before joining the minor-league side. Riggleman doubted Harper would start, saying he wanted to watch the veterans competing for spots in the outfield.

"We've got a lot of outfielders that we're committed to that we've got to give a long look to and make some tough decisions on," Riggleman said. "So that takes the priority. Bryce, he's going to get plenty of at-bats in minor league camp."

Photo by Jonathan Newton

By Adam Kilgore  | February 21, 2011; 2:00 PM ET
 
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Next: Chien-Ming Wang makes a change, Cole Kimball throws heat, Ross Detwiler looks good

Comments

Was Riggleman blaming Harper or the PR staff?

Posted by: brianbu | February 21, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Riggleman was blaming anybody. Certainly not Harper. He was talking about the need to be careful, and maybe thinking about the way in which fans collect autographs after practice.

Posted by: Adam Kilgore | February 21, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Hey Adam, how many of the "fans" going for Harper's autograph were under 30? I am all for fans, and especially kids, getting autographs but I remember during Strasburg-mania it seemed like there were WAY more professional memorabilia types holding pens than real fans. I wish there was a way to discern between the two.

Posted by: jpfterps | February 21, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Adam, based on what you wrote, I'd paraphrase Riggleman as saying:

"The kid wants to please everyone, including the fans. This is a noble thing, but we all have to be aware of the fact that he has a job to do."

"While this is a special situation, like with Steven last year, we as a team need to discuss ways to assert a bit more control."

They'll figure it out, just as they did with Strasburg.

Posted by: TimDz | February 21, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Chuckled nervously over the Steve Souza quote (former HS 'hotshot' in the system, now a 4th-yr pro stuck in A-ball).

Posted by: BinM | February 21, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone else think it's wrong what Rizzo did to Livo (in Boz's article). Yea Livo gave the price but he was one of your few shining moments from last season. No reason to take advantage. You could have paid him what he was worth. Ot at least a semblance of it. You didn't need to take advantage. You obviously didn't use the savings to help out with any additional pitching. I think it's really sad what they did.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 21, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

In my opinion, I don't think Rizzo "did" anything to Livo, and nothing that he did was wrong at all, skins_fan_22. Rizzo gave Livo what he asked for. There's no obligation to bid against yourself in that situation, and I think your characterization of it is an unfair perversion of the transaction.

Posted by: faNATic | February 21, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

It's pretty clear that Livo asked for a number, and that Rizzo gave thim that number, plus incentives of up to $750,000.
Livo is a big boy. This ain't his first rodeo. He knew what he was doing.
And Rizzo did up the ante with incentives (assuredly around GS and / or IP).
No, I don't think Rizzo did anything wrong.
Not by a long shot.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 21, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

>>Kilgore: I would be stunned if you read a better piece all spring than Boz's appreciation of Livan Hernandez.

Really? Wow. I sure hope youre wrong. I don't even think Boz would consider it wone of his better pieces. Cmon.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 21, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

>>Kilgore: I would be stunned if you read a better piece all spring than Boz's appreciation of Livan Hernandez

Seriously this sounds like some1 lost a bet and doesn't want to pay for dinner.
BTW if this is as good as it gets and we haven't even started the spring yet....???

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 21, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

@skins_fan_22: Ah, no. It's not always only about the money - As Kilgore mentioned in his WaPo piece, Livo has banked $50M over in his career, and already has his 'trophy car' (a Lamborgini).

He's single & probably lives like a hero in the south Florida Cuban communities (where he's comped nearly everytime he walks into a coffee shop or restaurant). What's more, he apparently likes playing for Washington & wants to stay with the team.

I know that's the opposite of what we see & have expected from a certain team based in Ashburn, where the 'money-grubbers' have lined up in the past for paydays well beyond their actual worth. Different sport, different attitude from some, apparently.

Posted by: BinM | February 21, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Jeebus, you're a miserable cur, skins_fan.

Lighten up, dude, join a gym, meet some friends for a meal, just stop posting the same miserable tripe overandoverandover - it's a pretty darn good piece. If you disagree, just for once, try not saying anything.

Man, the internet just brings out miserable human beings, doesn't it . . .

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | February 21, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Greetings:

B. Harper is a young kid eager to please the Nats and their fans. All Riggleman was saying (in my opinion) is that there is a need for a stronger group of PR people to sort of form a loose ring around the kid so he can sign some autographs and then get on with the "business" of baseball and all that it includes.

I agree completely. Baseball is why he's here. Yes, the fan contact is also a part of his experience however, it's a part that needs a "team" of PR people to police politely the fan interaction with the kid.

Bob Schnebly
www.bobschnebly.com

.......

Posted by: StarLyrara | February 21, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I just can't seem to shake the feeling that there's a middle aged man gone missing suddenly, somewhere....

Posted by: Section3mysofa | February 21, 2011 7:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't expect to see it but wouldn't it be amazing if skins fan every wrote something positive. Can you imagine how difficult it must be to be negative all the time. I agree with several others, lighten up, relax and try and smell the roses. Livan has made millions, he asked for a figure and Rizzo gave it to him plus incentives. If you actually read the article and understood it, Adam made it clear that Livan already has his Lamborgini and this is what he wanted. He is happy, Rizzo is happy and true fans of the Nationals are happy. Skins fan, not so much. I won't go there but I am guessing you spend lots of time gripping on
Skins Journal (or whatever the post calls it) why don't you stay there, this is spring training, time to dream, not complain.
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: sjm3091 | February 21, 2011 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Holy smokes, you guys must all be management. Sorry. I'm with Livo. He offered the Nats something too good and obviously very silly for himself. And instead of saying thanks Livo but you deserve more and we want to give you more, the Nats jumped at the chance to lowball the guy. 1 mill vs-- what did Boz say he was worth--20 mil, gimmie a break.
They could have done the right thing. They didn't.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 21, 2011 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Oops meant 12 mill. So if they split it down the middle. Woulda been very reasonable. Karma baby karma.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 21, 2011 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Anyone find it funny that the guy who calls himself "skins fan" is talking about greedy management and bad karma?

Posted by: 202character | February 22, 2011 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Really? Wow. I sure hope youre wrong. I don't even think Boz would consider it wone of his better pieces. Cmon.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 21, 2011 4:44 PM

Can you please just go away?

Posted by: Kev29 | February 22, 2011 7:06 AM | Report abuse

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