Sunday November 21, 2010 11:01 am
By Miss Chatter
NATIONALS PAGE NATIONALS VIDEO
A real live championship baseball game broadcast featuring top Nationals prospects in late November? Yes, please! My husband was rather stunned to find me in the basement watching real live baseball yesterday afternoon ("Seriously?!") as I took in the Arizona Fall League Championship. He should know by now while things calm down quite a bit over the fallwinter, there is no true "off" season. My hope was the game would provide a glimpse of future playoff games as these "baby Nats" progress up to the MLB club.
If you missed it, you missed not only a rare off-season baseball fix, but the opportunity to see six Nationals prospects on national television and Bryce Harper's pro television debut (as the MLB Network announcers reminded viewers several times). The one game championship felt very much like a Nationals minor league team with, oh yeah, a handful of players from other teams. Even the Scorpions manager Randy Knorr manages the Nats AA Harrisburg team.
Four Nationals started the game - Sammy Solis on the mound, Bryce Harper in right field, Steve Lombardozzi at short and Derek Norris catching. Michael Burgess made a pinch hitting appearance and Cole Kimball closed out the 9th for the one run win for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Initial reports had Michael Burgess starting in right, but late yesterday morning that changed and the phenom most fans wanted to see, Harper, got the starting nod and played the full game. Formerly a catcher who has been switched to the outfield, his fielding looked natural out there where he snared a few fly balls. Of course, his bat earns the most raves from scouts and fans wanted to see some of that "oppo boppo".
Harper didn't hit any eye-popping home runs during the game, however he did drive a ball past the infield for an RBI hit in his first at bat, contributing to the Scorpions' one run win against defending champs, the Javelinas. He struck out swinging at three balls in the dirt in his final at bat, although he did actually take a pitch. He admitted in a pre-game interview that he was going to be hacking since he was getting so few at bats playing only twice a week on the taxi squad.
Play may not have been as polished as at the major league level, but the close game kept things exciting (once you learned to tune out the "Super Fan", who you might be surprised to learn was a smart-sounding woman) with no clear winner decided until Cole Kimball closed out the 9th for the 3-2 win.
Harper drew probably the most attention during the fall league, even being named the top prospect over the short season by Jonathan Mayo after talking to scouts. Many fans still have trepidations about Harper's character after rumors of him being a "jerk" floated around during the draft process. So I found the last 30 seconds of this interview by Peter Gammons which aired on "Best of Hot Stove" on MLB Network and also embedded in the above link the most interesting.
Gammons: Ted Williams always said the one thing he wanted was to walk down the street and have people say, "there goes the greatest hitter that ever lived." What do you want people to say?
Bryce Harper: I want people to be able to say what a great person he was off the field, and on the field. You know, being able to say he hustled every ball out. Being able to say when he was out in public he didn't do anything dumb or stupid or anything like that. I want people to be able to say he's a great person on the field and an even better person off the field, and just a great young man and things like that. If I can have that, that will make everything even more better.
Maybe saying that kind of thing has been drilled into the boy's head, but it sounds good, right? Hopefully besides saying it, he proves it with his actions as he progresses.
So congratulations to the Scorpions and thanks for allowing Nats fans to enjoy the fresh warm fuzzy feelings of viewing a victory featuring several (now obsolete) Nats home whites as we head deeper into the hot stove and colder weather. All Nats prospects played and pitched well. While it was only a single game, it's a small sign of The Plan of building for the future, right? Take those positives where you can get them and if they happen as the leaves clutter lawns and temperatures plummet, even better. At least there was televised winning baseball for one day in late November. For that I'm thankful. Happy Thanksgiving all! (Now where do I find winter ball on my TV?)