“Going home would have been pretty good,” he said. “I still get to see my family out there and that’s the biggest thing. I think I’m still going to go home after the all-star game, give me about a day and a half at home and then get back on the grind on Friday.”
Harper, 19, became the youngest position player ever to make the all-star roster on Saturday, when he was added to replace Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Manager Davey Johnson had wanted Harper to rest since the rookie has played everyday since his promotion in late April. Harper has been dealing with a sore lower back for some of the first half of the season. Once Harper was selected to the game, the Nationals wouldn’t say no.
“With him, as with anybody, it’s more of a mental break,” Johnson said. “More of a break from performing and helping your team win ballgames. You’re not going to have that for four days. That’s a bigger responsibility that he is not going to have to shoulder for four days. I told him to just enjoy the all-star game and whatever role you get to play in it. Enjoy your surrounding. Enjoy the event. But stay nice and loose and relaxed.”
When his numbers were better, Harper said the all-star game was in the back of his mind. But when he went through a small slump in June, he felt other players were more deserving. He wasn’t named to the team originally, instead placed on the final five-man ballot for the final spot. He finished third in fan voting. While he would have loved to attend the game, he was hoping to enjoy time being “Bryce,” eating home-cooked meals and hitting with his father.
“It was up and down all week, up and down from the beginning of the all-star voting,” Harper said. “I was just excited Chipper [Jones] got in and David Freese got in there. I don’t think anybody was going to really miss me. They have a lot of big leaguers and whatnot there, so I don’t think the fans would have been upset me not being there.”
Harper said it didn’t matter how much he played in the all-star game. For him, getting to hang with and pick the brains of other established major leaguers would be most rewarding.
“As long as I’m there in the dugout with all those guys, enjoying my time there, that’s going to be fun,” he said. “I’ll be on the top step trying to get in, just watching and hanging out and enjoying it.”
Once he shared the news with his family, Harper said his father, Ron, was thrilled about the all-star selection. Tuesday will be no different for Harper, who has been playing in all-star games at many levels of his young career. The home run derby was of particular interest to Harper growing up.
“It’s just a blessing to go there and just take it all in and just enjoy myself,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for me and my family and baseball. It’s just going to be a lot of fun. Just trying to go in there and enjoy myself as much as I can.”