Friday morning, on one of the turf fields at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, a young player hustled to first base, where an unknown first base coach held out his hand.
“Who are you?” the player asked, appropriately wary of an unfamiliar face.
“I’m Bryce,” the reigning National League Most Valuable Player said. The player seemed satisfied, and readied to take his lead.
Scenes like that repeated themselves again and again in Southeast D.C. on Friday, as Harper, Anthony Rendon, Joe Ross, Blake Treinen, Michael A. Taylor and Ben Revere took the field with a few teams of youngsters at the academy. Rendon replaced Ian Desmond as the main player liason to the academy, and will serve on its board.
“It’s tough, early in the morning when you have a game that night, but [the guys] know the cause behind it,” Rendon said. “They know how much of an impact they can make, especially with the platform that we all have. It was fun to get them out here.”
Many of the players wore Nationals gear, including one particularly tiny hitter in a Harper T-shirt who needed some help running the bases. The real Harper, a few feet taller, ran around the bases with him. Taylor directed outfielders. Ross played some first base. Rendon made fun of his teammates and joked with the kids.
“It’s amazing,” Rendon said. “Any time you have the opportunity to give back, especially for some underprivileged kids that need more help than most of us, it’s a good cause to get out here.”
A few kids wore Max Scherzer shirts, a few wore Desmond shirts, a couple wore Harper, Rendon and others.
“It’s pretty unreal. I was actually in that boat not too long ago,” Rendon said. “…It’s surreal to be out here with 9-, 10-year-old kids that have your jersey on. I feel like I’m not that important of a person.”