Sunday night, the Nationals’ All-Star Game contingent boarded Ted Lerner’s private jet, bound for Kansas City on the owner’s plane. Bryce Harper watched movies on his iPad. Gio Gonzalez chatted up Ted and Annette Lerner, and probably the pilot, too. Stephen Strasburg brought along his wife, Rachel, and his dog, a Yorkie named Bentley.
As the flight wore on, Strasburg joined the conversation with the Lerner. Bentley became the star. Strasburg got Bentley to play dead for the Lerners, even as turbulence rumbled through the plane.
“He was kind of a little nervous,” Strasburg said. “Once it mellowed out a little bit, I was trying to get him to roll over.”
The flight touched down around 10 p.m., the mild sting of their loss forgotten. “Once we landed, we were like, let’s get it going,” Gonzalez said. “Let’s have some fun.”
The Nationals so far have savored their all-star experience — even Harper, who had been looking forward to four days with his family in Las Vegas. The days in Kansas City capped a first half in which they took the league by storm. They improved on an 80-81 finish in 2011 to take the best record in the National League (49-34) into the break. They have a young, compatible roster. Other players at the all-star festivities complimented them on their success.
“It’s fun to be a National right now,” Strasburg said.
During the Home Run Derby last night, Strasburg and Gonzalez brought their fathers on to the field to watch. Harper drew perhaps the most media attention of any player at the game, and during the broadcast, as Matt Kemp mowed the lawn, Harper gave an on-field interview.
Earlier in the day, Harper bantered after plenty of silly questions. One guy with a camera asked him, “What’s on your iPod?” Harper asked him, “What do you like to listen to?” The guy replied, “I like Vampire Weekend.” Harper said, “That’s weird.”
Harper admitted he had wanted to go home, but he also said that he would enjoy the chance to be in Kansas City.
“I had Vegas on my mind for about four days before this,” Harper said. “That was on my mind. Being able to come here, and really be here for Chipper [Jones]’s last game will be something for the ages. I’ll be able to tell my kids I saw Chipper’s last game. It’s just going to be fun to see all the different players and the fans. It’s going to be a blast.
“I’m just trying to come in here and have fun. If I come in here and go 0 for 4, I really don’t care. I’m just trying to come in here and enjoy the fans. It’s my first one. I’m going to take it all in. I’m going to get all the free stuff I can, and just try to enjoy myself.”
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NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse was on its all-star break.
Erie 4, Harrisburg 1: Zach Walters went 2 for 4 with a double. Jimmy Van Ostrand went 1 for 2 with a home run and a walk. Danny Rosenbaum allowed two earned runs in six innings on six hits and three walks, striking out three.
Potomac 2, Carolina 1: On rehab, Drew Storen allowed no runs on no hits and no walks in one inning, striking out one. Nathan Karns allowed one run in seven innings on three hits and a walk, striking out five. J.P. Ramirez went 2 for 3.
Hagerstown was off.