Harper Changes Hagerstown on His Way to Washington
- Updated: June 3, 2011
Superstars change everything, no matter where they go. This is true in business, personal life and, of course, sports and is on display, at least for the time being, in Hagerstown, MD. Hagerstown is the home of the Hagerstown Suns, the Class A Affiliate of the Washington Nationals and is home to the third oldest stadium in the country (This stadium has been reviewed on baseballreflections.com and can be found here).
Currently Hagerstown is home to the number one prospect in all of America, Bryce Harper. Serious baseball fans may remember Harper’s story, which was made extremely public around draft time last year. He is probably most known for dropping out of high school and getting his GED so he could to go college faster and develop as quickly as possible. The Nationals seemed to like this plan as they made him the number one pick in the draft last year.
While Harper has stayed on the national stage quite frequently with a story about him making the front page of ESPN.com just last week, he is also giving a small, loyal, baseball town, a chance to see what they hope to be a future Hall of Famer.
Hagerstown had supported their baseball team long before Harper arrived, but his presence has dramatically changed the atmosphere. Not only are the Suns selling more tickets than ever before, the town is a buzz with Harper fever.
If a fan arrives half an hour before the game, at most Minor League ballparks they would have no problem getting their ticket and finding their seat before the first pitch. This is not so in Hagerstown this summer as with 30 minutes prior to the start of the game, the line for tickets stretched nearly around the block.
The Suns are lucky they have a standing room only option as a ticket already in place because most people who arrived around game time, found themselves standing for the duration. His presence has helped financially in the team shop as well as the prices for Hagerstown or Harper apparel were greater than those at any level of Minor League Baseball seen by this writer.
In the opening introductions, there was no question who the fan favorite of the night was, as Harper strode out to centerfield, his name was announced and the crowd went wild as if Rick Vaughn was coming out from the bullpen in Major League.
Harper didn’t necessarily do anything out of the ordinary that night in Hagerstown. In fact, in his second at bat, he attempted to bunt twice, which fans were not too pleased with. Although it may be great that he is willing to play small ball (albeit with no one on base at this time), the fans clearly came to see Harper hit one over the wall.
He nearly did just that on the first pitch he saw during the game, but the ball ended about 20 feet short of the right field wall in the fielder’s glove. Even so, it was clear during that at bat, and those that followed, that Harper would not be long for Hagerstown. His swing was clearly the most fluid and powerful of anyone on the field that night and even though Harper cannot yet join his Major League buddies in the bar, he clearly has a swing that can compete with them. Harper was converted to the outfield from a catcher and admits he is still trying to catch on, but as long as he keeps swinging the bat with the conviction he showed that night in Maryland, he will have no problem sticking in the Majors for quite some time.
Hagerstown received some good news last week when the Nationals announced Harper would play in the Minors all year this season. While that may be the case, he is probably on his way to the next level very soon.