Bryce Harper stood up against a white wall outside the National League clubhouse at Citi Field on Tuesday night. The All-Star Game was near the end and Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, already lifted from the game, was heading towards the exit. He saw Harper standing there, waiting for reporters to talk to him following his performance in the all-star game. Ortiz extended a fist bump.
“Hey kid, keep doing your thing,” Ortiz said. Harper, sheepishly, smiled and put out his fist.
All-star games and experiences are supposed to be about this: many of the best players from rival teams and rival leagues playing baseball together on the same field and, well, just having fun.
“I went out there and was trying to have fun,” Harper said. “I had a blast with all the guys. It was a great experience.”
Added Jordan Zimmermann, who didn’t get to pitch in the game because of a stiff neck: “It was fun. I wish we would have won. It was still fun sitting in there with the guys and watching it from the home side instead of the visitor’s side.”
Harper finished 0 for 2 in his second all-star game, but first time starting. He smashed a rocket off Chris Sale in his first at-bat but right at Miguel Cabrera at third. (“I was just was trying to lay off the slider,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t hit it.) Harper started in center but was shifted to right field in the fifth inning. The plan was to get him two at-bats so he got to play six innings. He made a handful of catches in the outfield. Harper always relishes playing center.
“I ran by Davey, ‘There’s your center fielder right there,’ ” Harper said. “So maybe I planted it in his head a little bit. No, just kidding. Denard (Span) is a great center fielder. I felt good out there, felt comfortable. Being able to play alongside Carlos Gonzalez and (Carlos) Beltran was a lot of fun. And being able to play behind Harvey was a blast also.”
In between innings, Harper leaned on the dugout railing and yukked it up with Adam Wainwright. (“Wainwright kept it pretty loose in there,” Zimmermann said.) Zimmermann hung on the railing, too, chatting with Clayton Kershaw and the group of Pirates players. Zimmermann struck up a conversation with Madison Bumgarner and the two found had a lot in common.
Zimmermann, of course, wishes he could have pitched in the game but the experience, he said, was a “once in a lifetime thing.”
“The whole thing was awesome,” he said. “Nothing really sticks out. The home run derby was cool. I guess walking out on the field before the game, being announced was a special moment for me … It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Hopefully I can make it back here another time.”
“Being around all the guys that have been here for a long time and being able to be there with there with the first-year guys was a lot of fun,” Harper added. “Being able to hang out with the best players in baseball is always a blast. And I’m looking forward to a couple more all-star games and hopefully get back.”
The normally expressionless Zimmermann even revealed how giddy he was when, during player introductions before the game, his name was announced and the camera was fixed on him. Asked about cracking a smile, he deadpanned: “Yeah, I was happy.”
After the game, Harper was excited to spend time with his family. Zimmermann was headed home to Wisconsin to relax. They would be back in Washington by Friday to resume the season but with a special experience to treasure and remember.
FROM THE POST
In 2013 All-Star Game, the matchups — and the great Mariano Rivera — make it great, writes Thomas Boswell.
Davey Johnson cherishes his last all-star game, Adam Kilgore writes.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Harrisburg 6, New Britain 4: On rehab, Ryan Mattheus tossed two innings and allowed one run on three hits and walked two. Robbie Ray allowed six hits and three runs and walked three over three innings. Matt Grace tossed two scoreless. Tyler Herron and Ryan Perry pitched scoreless innings. Justin Bloxom went 2 for 2 with three walks. Jerad Head went 4 for 5 and Jimmy Van Ostrand finished 3 for 4.