Bryce Harper lived up to all the hype in his rookie campaign. Harper was named National League Rookie of the Year and helped lead the Nationals to a NL East division title.
The 20-year-old outfielder has been working hard this offseason to avoid a potential sophomore slump and expects the Nationals to make a deep run in October this season.
Bryce Harper joined ESPN 980 in D.C. on The Sports Fix to discuss surprises during his rookie year in Major League Baseball, not holding back in his rookie season, his views on being a role model at the age of 20, the personal moments that were special to him last season and the expectations for the Nationals this season.
Looking back on your rookie year, did anything surprise you about the Major League level?
“No, not really. I don’t really look back and think, ‘Oh man that’s different or this was different.’ I just look back and think we had a great year and a fun year. We had a great team and a great group of guys that came into every single game wanting to win and pulling on the same rope and really took advantage of every day and we had a lot of fun out there. That made life something to remember.”
Did you hold back at all during your rookie year to show who you really are?
“On the field I am going to keep doing my thing and keep going 110 percent every day no matter what. The fans in D.C. are great and it’s a lot of fun to have a lot of fans out there supporting us and really just coming out to the ballpark every single day/week and being there for us. They saw the real me and how I act on the field and what I do on the field. I am going to play as hard as I can and I am going to respect as much as I can and off the field I do my own thing. I try to keep that news as close as I can. My family means the world to me and on the field is a whole different aspect.”
Do you think of yourself as a role model at 20 years old?
“I’m not sure. I think little kids, all they have to do is go out and have fun and play as many sports as they can. The biggest thing when I was younger was I always had fun playing. I always looked up to guys. My hero was always my pops. That was different, I guess, for me, but little kids look up to a lot of different athletes and I want to try to be the best person I can, so they have somebody to look up to. They can always look at me and say, ‘Hey he plays the game the right way and he does this every day. He’s respectful towards the fans.’ And I am always going to respect my fans no matter what, especially in D.C., and it’s just a lot of fun to have a great group of people that love our team and love that city.”
Any personal moments that were really special for you?
“It always a special opportunity to see Chipper Jones play third base. Being able to see him play his last year was a special moment and not being able to go into the Braves Stadium each year at Turner Field and see Chipper at third base would be kind of different. That’s a guy I looked up to when I was younger. He’s a switch-hitting third baseman and had great hands over there and it’s going to be a little different. Being able to see a guy like that play his last year and play the All-Star Game and hang out with him at the All-Star Game and just talk to him here and there is a lot of fun. I think Chipper is unbelievable and a Hall of Famer.”
Do you welcome the team expectations that the organization has this year?
“Our team has a lot of goals and our team has a lot of expectations. We don’t care about anyone else’s expectations but ours and we’re going to go out there and play our own game, play the game we have been playing since last year and the year before. It’s going to be special this year. We’re excited to go in and play our game and have fun. We have a great opportunity to get into the playoffs again and hopefully go to the World Series. We have a great opportunity with the team that we have, with our starting pitching, like adding Dan Haren and adding Rafael Soriano in the bullpen and getting Adam Laroche back in the No. 4 spot. These are all huge pickups and we’re excited to get this year started and our expectations for our team is hopefully getting to the World Series.”