Bryce Harper has smashed barriers and made uncommon occurrences routine since his teens. The pattern continued Saturday afternoon as a late flood of fans votes made Harper the youngest National League starter in the history of the all-star game.
Fans punching ballots and refreshing MLB.com elected Harper, 20, to his second all-star game in as many seasons. On Tuesday, Harper trailed Braves left fielder Justin Upton by 15,000 votes for the final starting outfield spot. His popularity and return from the disabled list Monday propelled him to Citi Field in New York, where he will likely start in center field between Carlos Gonzalez and Carlos Beltran.
Only three position players younger than Harper have started an all-star game, all from the American League. Harper will become the youngest hitter to start since Ken Griffey Jr., who made the lineup in 1990 – two years before Harper was born – at age 20. Al Kaline and Jerry Walker were the other 20-year-olds who edged Harper.
Harper will become only the second National to start an all-star game and the first since Alfonso Soriano, who started in the outfield on his way to a 40-40 season in 2006. Harper also became the first player to make the all-star game twice as a National.
After a breathtaking start to his sophomore season, Harper played through pain caused by his collision with the Dodger Stadium outfield wall and then missed 31 games on the disabled list with knee bursitis. Through April, Harper led all outfielders in wins above replacement, the catch-all stat FanGraphs.com uses to measure a player’s total value.
Though Harper’s season has since been stalled by injury, he still entered Saturday hitting .260/.362/.544 with 13 home runs. Before the Nationals’ game against the Padres, Harper said his recent injury would not prevent him from playing in the July 16 showcase.
“I would love to be in the all-star game again and play for the National League,” Harper said. “And starting in center field that would be a lot of fun.
“No, I feel like I’d want to go. It’s only two or three innings you’re playing and watching the rest of the game. It would be a lot of fun, for the experience.”
In the 2012 All-Star Game, Harper went 0 for 1 with a walk, wore gold spikes and memorably lost a fly ball in the lights of Kansas City’s Kaufman Stadium.
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