It may be difficult to believe that a 21-year-old young man in his position has already come to terms with the realities of life in his chosen profession. The reality that he'll always have to work hard to stay in shape, and the reality that he'll have to remain disciplined in order to see the plan through. But that's where Harper is right now.
He understands and accepts what he has to do, and as he recently told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, he's one-hundred percent committed to keeping his body healthy.
“My body is what I work with,” Harper said. “It’s not just sitting behind a desk and I have to use my hands all day. It’s my body. This is what I have to do every single day. I come in, and I have to feel good. If you’re going out and drinking and partying, you’re not going to feel good the next day. I want to get my eight hours and be able to eat good meals and not be sluggish or anything like that. My body is my temple, and I’ve always thought that.”
It's a lot more complex than toning down his style and avoiding running into the outfield wall, though both would certainly help. Harper wants to maintain a healthy lifestyle off the field, which isn't the easiest task once the regular season kicks in full gear and the travel schedule begins to engulf his life. Harper can't control when his team gets a day off or what time their next flight will land, but he can control what he does with the time he's given and he can control the substances he puts in his body.
That's his focus — or perhaps even his obsession — as he enters his third full season.
“I mean, I’m not perfect,” Harper said, laughing as he sat in the Washington Nationals’ dugout this week. “I eat ice cream all the time. Outside of that, I’m going to be smart.”
He wouldn't be human if he didn't love ice cream, but his preference is to consume water, whole foods and natural supplements, while avoiding sugary drinks, alcohol, pain relievers if at all possible, and performance-enhancing drugs. That latter is no secret, as Harper has been outspoken about PEDs since entering the media's radar at age 16, but the questions always arise because of the shape he keeps himself in.
“I never want to disgrace this organization, or myself or my family’s name,” Harper continued. “I would never want to do that to my family, or put this organization through that. I want to be a good person on and off the field. I think that’s part of it. I really want to have a possibility of going into the Hall of Fame one day. I think that’s huge with a lot of baseball writers and old school guys. Of course, that’s not the main goal — the main goal is winning a World Series. Hall of Fame is so far away. It’s just something I’ve always thought about doing. I want to be as clean as I can.”
It's a refreshing stance, even if the skepticism surrounding Harper never fades completely.
For him, it's all about getting in the right frame of mind and keeping that determination. That's why he plays every game with the same aggressive style. That's why he'll lose his mind every now and then — even in spring training — if something doesn't go his way. It may not always endear him to others, but it allows him to function within himself. Keeping the mind focused on something, anything that's positive during the season can be challenging. Harper has it down, and it doesn't hurt that his physical tools match his determination.
There's actually a lot more in Kilgore's piece that is worth checking out. It's a lengthy but fascinating read that delves more into Harper's reasons for abstaining from alcohol, his mom's cooking and just setting a good example. It may not change your opinion of Harper, but it should give a clearer perspective.
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