Few players have come to Major League Baseball and performed as well as Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals has at such an early age. The National League's Rookie of the Year at age 19 and a two-time All-Star by age 20, Harper's career so far compares to that of greats like Ken Griffey, Mickey Mantle and Al Kaline. Making the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16 was justified, and getting his GED to get on the fast track to the majors already seems like the right move.
Harper also has a style about him — from his changing hairstyles to his eye black to his shoes — that makes him one of the more instantly identifiable players in baseball. Raised as a Mormon in Las Vegas, he brings a unique perspective to the game, which he shared in a recent Answer Man session at Nats camp in Viera, Fla.
Bryce Harper: Ha! I don't know about wrestling. But Derek Jeter has been an unbelievable ballplayer. I was able to grow up watching him play, and be a great guy on and off the field, the way he conducted himself on and off the field. Those are some hard shoes to fill right there. Trout's an unbelievable ballplayer. Manny Machado. Wil Myers. Matt Harvey. There are so many young guys. It's going to be exciting to be a part of it and see what happens the next couple years.
DB: If MLB were pro wrestling, do you think you'd make a pretty good bad guy?
BH: Ehh, I'm not sure. I know more about UFC than the wrestling circuit. I think everybody's a pretty good guy in the UFC.
DB: Taking yourself out of the equation, if the Nationals were to have a cage-fighting tournament, who would be the last two guys standing?
BH: Man, that's tough. I'm not sure about now, but when Rick Ankiel was here, probably him. Ankiel probably would be the last guy standing for sure.
DB: Even with you?
BH: I'm out of the equation, you said! So I don't have to answer that.
DB: Screwed myself on that question.
BH: Ha ha, yep.
DB: Did dressing like a clown for halloween change your mind in any way about clowns? Maybe give you some clown empathy?
BH: It was just a funny thing to do, I thought, after a year of seeing people over-exaggerate that question and my response. I thought it was pretty funny.
DB: But you copyrighted the "Clown Question, Bro" phrase to protect yourself against further Clown Questions!
BH: I don't copyright it anymore, I don't think. I think it's done now. It was funny but it kind of ran its course.
DB: Is there such a thing as too much eye black?
BH: I think in the big leagues there is. There's a professional way to just kind of slide it right across. Having more eye black was something I did in high school and college and it's changed a little bit now this past year.
DB: Your hair always looks ready to play. Do you put product in before the game starts, usually?
BH: You want your hair to sit down a little bit, so you want to put something in it before the game so it doesn't go all over the place when you take off your cap, or if your helmet comes off. I don't go too crazy, but there's always a little something in there.
DB: In a Men's Health article, they detail your workout and mention your diet — but just say that you "eat right." You're not tempted ever to go for a hot dog or an ice cream cone?
BH: You know, not really. I'll hit Chick-fil-A sometimes, I've been known to do that, but if I need a fast food option, I'll go to Chipotle and get a bowl real quick — chicken and rice, something like that. I don't really eat fast food — though maybe In-N-Out [Burger] and do some Animal Style when I'm on the West Coast. You don't usually have that option during the season, so it's easy to not make it a habit.
DB: Were you destined to become a big deal when your parents gave you three names? "Bryce Aron Max" also happens to spell out "BAM," which is part of your probationary nickname "Bam-Bam."
BH: I definitely noticed that it does, but with my last name in there, the whole thing really spells out "BAMH," which ruins it. So in the end, I think they're just names of relatives and things like that.
DB: Your talent and love for baseball is obvious, but sometimes you almost seem like you could have been a football guy.
BH: Um, I don't wish that I was playing football. I love baseball and the way I play is like it's my last day ever playing it. I do like football, but you've got to respect that it's not like baseball.
DB: Are the new sliding rules something that you're going to have to get used to?
BH: Yeah, but the changes will protect the catchers and I think that's the biggest thing. You want your catchers to stay back there and be protected, so that's the most important part of it.
DB: Jayson Werth. With his beard and his friendly nature, would he make a suitable replacement for Santa Claus someday?
BH: Ha ha, I don't think he'd be up for that. He's a giving guy and all, but I don't think we're going to see that happen. He's a baseball player first, last and always.
DB: What about this for a Nationals giveaway idea: Replica Tyler Clippard goggles. Your thoughts?
BH: It's a great idea. Messing around, I'd definitely wear them. Not during a game, because that's his time, but it'd be hilarious. I really like that.
DB: Would you and Strasburg make a good pair of cops in a buddy movie-type setting?
BH: I think me and Jayson Werth would be better. We'd make good cops partners. Me and Stras — I dunno.
DB: I can talk to the network about retooling the series for you and Werth. How would that dynamic work with him?
BH: We'd probably fight a lot. It would be funny.
DB: Does being religious and/or spiritual go well with being a baseball player because discipline helps in both practices?
BH: Spirituality is something that makes you who you are on and off the field. It's something you try and live by. The way you play is one thing, but the way you act is a little different. You're just trying to be a good person, the best you can be, on and off the field.
DB: Who were you most excited to see at the Grammys?
BH: Probably Macklemore. I really like the way he sings and performs.
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