Bryce Harper introduced at pregame news conference

Gene Wang
Copyright 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010; 6:41 PM

UPDATED The Washington Nationals introduced No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper at a news conference a few moments ago and several hours after he took batting practice at Nationals Park in front of, among others, Manager Jim Riggleman, agent Scott Boras, players from both the Nationals and visiting St. Louis Cardinals and a throng of media representatives. Harper wore a black suit resembling a tuxedo, black shirt and magenta tie and sat with GM Mike Rizzo to his right and agent Scott Boras to his left. Harper's hair also was cut in a subtle Mohawk. "The ladies like it," Harper said of his newly acquired haircut. Said Rizzo: "Bryce comes from a highly acclaimed amateur career. It's another fact that the Washington Nationals are going in the right direction. We feel he's going to be a cornerstone of the organization." To make the introduction official, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, whom Rizzo called the face of the franchise, handed Harper his No. 34 jersey. Harper then put it on as the camera flash bulbs popped. "I always loved Mickey Mantle," Harper said of why he chose No.34. "Three and four equals seven." The Washington Nationals will move Harper, who played catcher in college, to outfield in order to hasten his arrival to the big leagues. Harper is just 17 years old, and the Nationals have said they envision him joining the major leagues in perhaps two seasons. Harper signed a five-year deal worth $9.9 million, including $6.25 guaranteed, less than a minute before Aug. 16's midnight deadline. From here, Harper will go to Florida in roughly two weeks to join the organization's affiliate in the Gulf Coast League. Rizzo said the team will decide soon after that what his next assignment will be. "It felt like home," Harper said of taking batting practice at Nationals Park. "It was a blast going out there. Hittiing on a pro field is always fun. I'm like a kid in a candy store. To hit one in the upper deck is fun." As for the media attention--and there was plenty at the news conference on field level next door to the clubhouse--Harper seemed completely comfortable with the bright lights. "I've had a lot of people on me my whole life," Harper said. "I'm used to it now. I have had a lot of media. I want to have fun. Having the media and stuff, that's fine. I don't care. If you like me you like me. If you don't you don't." Harper also talked about running into first baseman Albert Pujols, the likely future Hall of Famer in town with the St. Louis Cardinals for a four-game series against Washington. Harper said he knew Pujols, a three-time MVP who not surprisingly said the Nationals' newest phenom has a wealth of potential. "I didn't watch [batting practice], but I heard he was hitting it a long way," Pujols said. "I met him at the All-Star Game. He's a really humble kid. Hopefully he can stay like that and don't let the success catch up to him. Just stay humble. It's still the same game."

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