“They don’t want to put me in bad circumstances,” Harper said. “That’s what this team has got. We’re like a family. We have that camaraderie in the clubhouse. We all have fun. I respect those guys so much for that.”
A celebrity of Harper’s stature could surely massage his way into many bars or clubs. Harper said the temptation does not even strike him as an option. He does not drink alcohol, he said, and he is adamant he will not. Although he was raised a Mormon, Harper did not mention his religion as a reason.
“That stuff has never appealed to me,” he said. “It’s never appealed to me to go out and get hammered or anything like that. That’s never been my nature. I want to take care of my body. I want my body to be strong all the time. I don’t want to be fatigued. I don’t want to drink and have my liver collapse. I want to play for a long time, and I want to be strong for a long time.
“I’ve always said my body is a temple. I take care of it. I don’t want anything to go inside of it that’s going to destroy it or anything like that. I always tell my parents I’d never do anything like that. I’m going to keep strong on that. There’s a lot of people that say, ‘Ah, no you won’t, no you won’t.’ But I’ve always told myself I would.”
He said he also feels certain obligations.
“I’m not going to be a clown and go out, do anything like that,” Harper said. “I want to respect this town. I want to respect the people in this town. I want this town to know, Harper is going to give this town his best every single day. He’s not going to play hung over. He’s not going to do anything like that. He’s going to be the real deal. He’s not going to do any stupid things that destroys his career. I really want to give my best every day. If I don’t do those things, that’s not what’s going to happen.”
Years separate Harper from decisions about his long-term future, yet already he speaks about Washington as a long-term home. He grew up a Yankees fan, but now he plays for the Nationals and calls Washington home.
Before the Nationals played the Yankees in mid-June, Harper told his father, “I don’t want to be a Yankee. I want to beat them.”
Staff writer James Wagner contributed to this story.