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Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo has said that Harper will not play in the major leagues this year. On July 3 in Hagerstown, after Daubach told Harper he was being promoted, Harris, just to make sure the kid understood, said to him, "Bryce, what if you hit .500 in Harrisburg?"
"I'm staying in Harrisburg," Harper replied.
"What if you're hitting .800?"
"Staying in Harrisburg."
"And what if you're so good you hit a thousand?"
"Staying in Harrisburg."
The Nationals don't want him looking ahead. They want him immersed in the learning process, tutored by Beasley, Tarasco, the coaching staff, Harris (who lives 15 minutes away) and a winning, veteran team in Harrisburg. They want him to touch each minor league level, which would mean starting next season in Triple A, an assignment, given his talent and learning curve, that could be brief. "You don't get it every night," Harris says, "but there are 'wow' moments, where you go, 'This is special.' "
Learning the game is complicated enough. Learning it as a famous 18-year-old pro with this level of exposure, with the world watching, filming, recording, cussing, stalking, booing and cheering, is an unprecedented experience. A long time ago Ron Harper taught his son never to drink anything from a glass or open container if he was unsure about its chain of custody.
"I still do that," Bryce says. "I don't drink [alcohol] at all. When I'd go to parties with my buddies—it's Vegas—I'd always bring a water bottle with me. I'd keep it in my hand no matter what. I still do. Anytime I go to anybody's house, I always have it in a closed container. I open it up, drink it right away or keep it close, just in case. Things happen, and I don't want to take a chance."
Sitting on the picnic table outside the clubhouse, having finished a series of interviews and in the middle of another, with another workday scheduled to begin with on-field drills four hours before game time, Harper is interrupted by a man holding forth a baseball and a pen and this disclaimer: "Only if you don't mind. I don't want to bother you." Harper grins and signs the ball, BRYCE HARPER, 34, LUKE 1:37. ("For with God nothing shall be impossible.") He has come to accept interruptions, as well as the booing, as the wallpaper to this great big, loud life.