“Definitely very fortunate to play this game every single day,” Harper told MLB Network hosts Fran Charles and Mike Lowell Monday night. “I absolutely love doing it, and to have the respect of my players in different clubhouses, in my clubhouse, it’s just been a lot of fun this year. I couldn’t have done it without the guys in my clubhouse, being able to have guys like Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman, and Matt Thornton, just to name a few. It’s just been a great year and it’s been a lot of fun.”
“I truly think it’s always been there. I just think I was healthy this year. I think that’s the main thing,” Harper said. “I was able to stay on the field this year and not have those little nagging injuries of sliding into third base and getting my thumb or running into a wall in Dodger Stadium. Just trying to be as smart as I could out there and just play the game the right way. It just comes with the experience of knowing when to go hard, when not to go hard, and just being able to be smart about everything I do.”
Harper is a finalist for the National League Gold Glove award in right field, which will be awarded Tuesday. He also seems a safe bet for National League most valuable player, which will be awarded later this month. He is the first National to win a Players Choice Award since 2007, when Dmitri Young won the National League comeback player of the year award. Blue Jays’ third baseman Josh Donaldson won the overall player of the year, awarded to the best player in all of Major League Baseball.
Harper will be 23 next season, the centerpiece of a still-talented Nationals team which will be led by a new manager, Dusty Baker. Harper credited former Nationals manager Matt Williams with acting as a crucial sounding board for questions of approach at the plate, but he said he’s ready for the change.
“I think you see that smile on my face. I’m definitely very excited to have [Dusty Baker]. Being able to play for a guy like Dusty, somebody that’s been there, been around the game for a long, long time, played for the Dodgers early, being able to do the things with him, try to learn from him,” Harper said. “Also, learning from a guy in Davey Lopes, one of the best first base coaches in the game and one of the best baserunning coaches in the game, also. I’m very excited for that, and also Mike Maddux, being able to pick his brain about pitchers and seeing the tendencies that other pitchers throw with. I’m very excited to have the team that we do. We finally have an all-star staff and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m very excited.”