The day after the right field wall got the better of their collision, Bryce Harper stood in the visitors clubhouse at Dodger Stadium and listed off what hurt: “Both legs. Shoulder. Ribs. Hand. Wrist. Chin, of course.” In his chin, he had 11 stitches. He had to shave his beard for the procedure, and he said that upset him most.
Harper will miss tonight’s game and almost certainly tomorrow’s as he heals from the frightening, face-first crash. Harper felt nauseous all day Tuesday and even skipped batting practice. He could have played with soreness, he said, but not the queasy feeling. Harper reiterated he does not have a concussion, which doctors determined using the ImPACT cognitive test. But Manager Davey Johnson did not rule out Harper receiving more rest.
“I feel kind of crappy today,” Harper said. “I feel a little carsick, I guess you could say, like the feeling of that. I don’t have a concussion or anything like that, which is very pleasant to hear.”
The collision spurred many to wonder if Harper should dial back his effort, to mix some caution into his all-out style. Harper heard the talk, and he defied it. In the visitors clubhouse at Dodger Stadium, Harper again made clear he prioritizes effort over safety.
“I don’t even know even know how to answer that question, besides the fact that I’m going to play this game for the rest of my life and try to play it as hard as I can every single day,” Harper said. “My life being on the line, trying to kill myself out there for my team, trying to win a World Series, people can laugh at that all they want. At the end of the day, I’m going to look myself in the mirror and say I played this game as hard as I could.”
“Throughout my career, I’ll learn, I guess,” Harper added. “But that’s how I play. I’ve always played like that, even in college. I’d run into walls and get back up and go, ‘Holy crap. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.’ But that’s the way I play. If I catch a ball and make a great catch for my pitcher, even if we’re ahead 6-0, it’s something that I pride myself on. I’m going to keep playing that like for the rest of my career.”
Harper has only played the outfield full-time since 2010, the year the Nationals drafted him and converted him from catcher. Lack of experience, rather than too much hustle, may be the real culprit.
“He hasn’t been out there enough to probably even realize he’s running into the warning track,” Johnson said. “But he’s hit the fence enough times that he’s going to get the translations of how close he can get to the wall. But I don’t want to put a damper on his enthusiasm. That’s who he is. It’s just going to come with experience. One of the best teachers in the world is hitting that wall hard.”
On the fateful play Monday night, Harper simply ran out of room.
“I thought I had the ball the whole time,” Harper said. “I turned left. I didn’t think [A.J. Ellis] hit it as hard as he did. I went back to the right side of it. I thought if I had about five more feet, I was on the ball. Just looking at the ball. I didn’t feel the track. Right when I turned around to jump to get the ball, right when I turned around to leap up, I just hit the wall. I don’t know if Denard [Span] was saying anything. I didn’t hear Denard at all. I try to go balls to the wall. When I’m on the ball, I’m trying to get that ball.”
Harper was asked if last night brought what he called “one of those ‘holy crap’ moments” from college. No, replied. When he got back up – before he tried to convince Johnson and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz to let him stay in the game – he had only one thought in mind.
“I wish I would have caught the ball,” he said.