When Bryce Harper was 10 years old, he told his father that if he was ever selected to a Home Run Derby he would pick him to throw to him. Over a week ago, Harper was asked by David Wright to participate in the event and he pounced at the opportunity. He then asked his father, who coached him and threw batting practice to him growing up, to join him. His father, Ron, accepted and will throw to his 20-year-old son on Monday night at Citi Field.
“[My dad] wanted to make sure I was comfortable with that, not being able to see him for the past four or five months throwing,” Harper said during media availability on Monday at Citi Field before the Home Run Derby. “He just wanted to make sure that’s what I want. But he’s a pretty incredible BP thrower. I just hopes he hits my bat. I’m just trying to go out there, have some fun, and hopefully do what no one else has done.”
Harper, the first Nationals player to compete in the event, will wear bright orange Under Armour cleats during the competition — “orangish-chrome,” as all-star teammate Jordan Zimmermann referred to them. “I think he’s got as good a chance as anyone,” Zimmermann said. “I don’t know if his dad is going to be able to throw strikes with the cleats he’s got. They’re pretty shiny. They’re pretty loud.”
Asked about who he was looking forward to seeing hit, Harper spoke glowingly of Baltimore’s Chris Davis. Harper is scheduled to hit sixth among the competition’s eight hitters, right after Davis, who leads the majors with 37 homers at the all-star break. “He’s incredible,” Harper said. “I don’t know if I want to follow that or not.”
Davis added to the love fest of the all-star game and festivities by heaping praise on Harper. “I’m interested to see him hit,” Davis said. “He’s obviously got lot of tools. He’s a guy I like to watch hit because of the energy he brings to the batter’s box.”
On Tuesday, Harper will start in center field for the National League and hit ninth — a place in the lineup he has never occupied in the major leagues. “That’s usually for the pitcher,” Harper joked. “I don’t think I’m pitching tomorrow.”
Davey Johnson, a coach on Manager Bruce Bochy’s NL staff, said there was much angtst among the coaches about where to hit Harper and the batting order.
“Everybody in the lineup is a three-hole hitter,” Johnson said. ”I’m batting him leader, and ninth is second leadoff. There was a big discussion amongst the coaches. They anguished over the lineup. It’s good enough for me. Other guys are more experienced.”