As Detroit Tigers fans, we tend to walk a very thin line between love and hate. We're supportive and eager when our squad is on the uptake. We are also, however, vocal, loud and brutally honest when they fail to meet expectations. Time and time again, we have watched, intently, as our team has built what looks to be something positive, and then loses it because of a lack of desire, urgency and motivation. It is during a stage such as this when we highlight individual players who we feel do, or do not, live up toward the standards we place upon them, whether warranted or not. Because of this, we get complacent. We get jealous. We become admirers of those teams which garner those ideals we fail to see in our own team. We long to see a player who embodies those ideals in a Tigers uniform. September 6 was one of those days.
Against the Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals' player Bryce Harper delivered one of the most incredible performances of the season. He also provided a fair bit of entertainment during the argument and scuffle which ensued after being brushed back by a well-aimed pitch. While many people have quickly dismissed Harper as a "golden boy" who acts with a disproportionate amount of bravado, I see it a bit differently.
What I see in Harper's performance is gritty, gutsy and purely the end-result of a player giving it his all, night in and night out. He is a great ball player. He knows it, as well. He is not ashamed to shout it from the rooftops, both figuratively and literally, and he is not afraid to put even the most seasoned veteran in his place when necessary.
Harper has delivered a high-caliber season of play in 2012. He has brought the traditional "tough guy" back to professional baseball. Sure, the Tigers have seen players with flashes of manliness and bravado over the years. Carlos Guillen's stare-down of pitcher Jered Weaver after his sent one to the seats was notable. So, too, was youngster Rick Porcello's attempt to quell the charge of rampaging beast Kevin Youkilis. What we miss, most often, is the type of attitude that brings excitement and fervor back into the game. That combination of hustle, dedication, guts and grit is owned by few, but bragged by many. Harper is one of the previous.
He makes no apologies for his play. He doesn't need to. For this young ball player, the stuff that makes him tick is something the rest of baseball would be well-served to try and harness. Sure, he's brash and a little annoying at times. Many of the great ones are. He, at least, can be assured that he gave it his all, every day. From a Tigers fan, the respect owed to Harper is earned and warranted. Maybe that's what the current crop of Tigers, lagging far behind their expected performance, is missing.
The author, D. Benjamin Satkowiak, is a successful entrepreneur and published, freelance author, who has tailored works on various sports, health and fitness topics. He currently serves as a Yahoo! Contributor Network "Featured Contributor" and writes on the Detroit Tigers , Detroit Lions, Great Lakes Loons and Notre Dame football.
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