What sustains him is breakfast — his favorite meal of the day — and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just before games start. When he is home, however, he gets three hearty meals a day, if not more. He eats whatever his mother, Sheri, makes and places before him. One night the menu is fettuccini, another it’s enchiladas or shepherd’s pie. “She makes everything good and everything is fresh,” he said.
“I just eat as much as I can,” Harper added. “I don’t really care. I don’t really have a diet. I’m still going to eat Fruity Pebbles and Captain Crunch and all these cereals at 12 o’clock at night. I don’t really care.”
Harper mostly hung out at home over the winter. His room at his parents’ house is intact. He played with his dog Swag, who lives there. He spent time with his sister Brittany, her husband and their 5-month-old son, who live in Wyoming. He went to University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball games. He tried golfing for the first time (”I loved it, but I’m terrible,” he said.) He took trips to Los Angeles, including an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” The Harper family went on cruise around Hawaii in late December and, of course, Harper lifted with his father, Ron, on the ship.
“[My parents] love having me around,” he said. “They don’t have me around for nine months. So I’m an absolute homebody. Our family is really close.”
Throughout his entire career, Harper’s baseball ability has had him playing against older players. And in the Nationals’ clubhouse, he is around players on average six to seven years older. Kids his age are in college, not playing in the major leagues. But when he visited his girlfriend Kayla Varner, a soccer player at Brigham Young University, over the winter and watched her games, Harper didn’t regret missing out on college. He is living his dream of playing major league baseball.
“I don’t need to go to college or do any of those parties or anything like that,” he said. “I like playing the game of baseball. I like being around my family and friends. And I’m Bryce when I’m around them. And I’m Bryce in here [the clubhouse]. This is what I love to do.”
Harper admits his rookie season was both exciting and stressful, the mental and physical toll evident. He endured the longest, most arduous slump of his career during the summer. He didn’t rest during the all-star break. Fans chased him for his autograph and photos inside and outside Nationals Park. Reporters vied for his time in the clubhouse. But Harper considers it all a blessing.
“I’d rather be the guy that has everybody doing that than not,” he said. “I love playing the game every single day. I love having fans. And I have a great group of guys that helped me get through those hard times and I can talk to them about anything.”
On Sunday, the first day of full-team workouts, Harper joked with teammates during stretching and warmups. He drilled balls over the left field fence with ease during batting practice, almost in midseason form.
“Anything he sets his mind to he will achieve,” his brother Bryan said in an e-mail. “He told me last year in the middle August, he was going to make a push and get that Rookie of The Year Award, and look what he did in September. I truly believe he can do anything he wants to do in his career . . . Anything he puts his mind to he can achieve. If he wants to win the MVP, he will.”