When I arrived at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Virginia at 5:30 PM I wasn’t expecting the gates to be open. They normally don’t open until an hour before first pitch for minor league games, but there they were standing wide open and welcoming me in. I went to look at the line-ups and was greeted by the familiar names of Burns, Martinson, and Keyes, but batting second for the P-Nats on this night was rehabbing big league phenom Bryce Harper. At 20 years old Harper is young for high A. In fact he is younger than every single member of the P-Nats roster, but there he is a rehabbing big leaguer, a truly rare talent.
That talent was on display early as Harper in his first at bat in the bottom of the first inning hit what was ruled a double. It was more of a pop-up between the short stop and left fielder that was dropped. Harper sprinted around first and went into second standing up. He showed the old Harper hustle on that play and it did not appear that the knee was bothering him one bit.
On defense Harper didn’t get many chances in the three innings he played but there is something to be said for not falling over while standing out in left field. The one ball that was close to him ended up being a double to his left but Harper read it correctly and took a route that had him positioned to catch the carom off the wall and hold the runner to two bases.
In his second at bat Harper looked like the patient and dangerous hitter Nats fans have come to know. It is hard to see with the distance major league parks provide but Harper is so quiet and still in the batters box. He is like a snake coiled and ready to strike. The opposing pitcher must have sensed the danger because he threw only one pitch near the strike zone and that was fouled off. Harper took what the game gave him as Myrtle Beach Pelicans starter Alec Asher would not give in and walked him.
Once on base Harper had little to do but wait as Michael Taylor made an out, and then on Jason Martinson’s single Harper was waiting no longer. With the dame flair and sudden acceleration Nationals fans have become accustomed to Harper speed past second on the single and dashed to third as his helmet came flying off. Harper would score on batter later on an Adrian Nieto single.
The three innings of speed, hustle, and patience would be it for Harper. He was done after three innings and quickly the crowd was gathering outside the P-Nats tiny clubhouse. Fans were waiting for Harper to emerge just as throngs of people had waited for him to take the field and watched him warm up in the batting cage before the game. As most big leaguers that rehab do Harper was done and gone as soon as his assignment for the evening was finished, but he will be back tomorrow evening to play a few more innings and draw yet another big crowd to Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Virginia.