The Washington Nationals are already the feel-good story of the early 2012 Major League Baseball season. They are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the National League at 14-6, plus they have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.
This early-season showdown between the Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, the two best teams in the National League, is a marquee matchup. But early yesterday afternoon things became much more interesting and far more dramatic on a national scale.
It all started when Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo announced that star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was going on the 15-day disabled list. He knew he needed a big bat to help the team's struggling offense.
Considered one of the top prospects in baseball, Harper, the 2010 overall No. 1 pick in the MLB draft was selected at the young age of 17. Now at the age of 19, he is going to start in left field for the Nationals tonight. Oh, and by the way, Stephen Strasburg is pitching for Washington this evening to add yet another reason to watch.
The MLB Network announced that they would be airing the game nationally starting at 9 p.m. ET as part of their Saturday Night Baseball package. ESPN and FOX offices in Los Angeles are ready to report on all things Harper the moment he strides onto the green grass of Dodger Stadium about 6 p.m. ET.
Like the debut of his teammate Strasburg, young Harper will get the media crunch that is expected of a Sports Illustrated cover boy. You can bet that the MLB Network will be adding more Nationals games to their roster and ESPN had already scheduled May 6th for Sunday Night Baseball as the Philadelphia Phillies are headed to town to face the Nationals in prime time.
The Harper hype started yesterday on ESPN and the MLB Network and don’t look for it to die down anytime soon.
Locally, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the home of both the Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles are doing all they can to make sure that everyone in their four-state region from Harrisburg, Pa. to Charlotte, N.C. knows which channel on the cable system that MASN2 and MASN2-HD is on for tonight’s coming-out party.
Las Vegas, Harper’s hometown, is excited and there will be plenty of new Nationals fans making the trip over to Dodger Stadium. His debut in the majors was the top sports story on all the local television stations in Las Vegas, as well as on the front page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal sports section. The Vegas media will be making the trip to LA to cover the local hero.
So, ready or not, Harper will be in the big leagues and you will be seeing plenty of him nationally and, of course, locally starting tonight.