Since he got to the Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper has drawn comparisons to Pete Rose because of his old-school brand of hustle. At just 19 years old, Harper is becoming a national phenomenon, making the highlights on ESPN and MLB Network on a nightly basis.
This week I spoke to Harold Reynolds, an analyst for MLB Network and former Major League second baseman. We talked about Harper and another 19-year-old star, Ken Griffey, Jr., who was Reynolds' teammate in Seattle.
JW: Does Harper remind you of Rose?
Reynolds: "Yes, absolutely. He is like all the players in the 1980s and just like I learned how to play the game. Bryce runs out every ground ball, he makes singles into doubles and he does not have an off switch. Just like Pete, he loves baseball and at 19 he actually makes other players on the Nationals better because his enthusiasm is very infectious. He makes everyone in that dugout play as hard as he does and that is a good thing for the team."
JW: What was it like to have a 19-year-old on your team?
Reynolds: "Well, having Ken Griffey, Jr. around was like having your little brother on the team. He would get to the park at 2 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game and want to take batting practice. He had that great smile, just having fun with his hat backwards and hitting the ball 450 feet in batting practice.
"He was, at 19, one of the best players on our team, and he, like Bryce, wanted to learn a little something from each of us on the team. We loved him and helped him grow because he loved the game and respected every person on the team. But he was also a kid, so we would play video games and we would order room service and watch movies just like brothers do."
JW: What makes guys like Harper and Griffey special?
Reynolds: "Bryce, like Ken, is an old soul. He, like Ken, does not play or act on the field like a teenager and finally, like Ken, Bryce loves to learn and listen to the men around everything he can about the game of baseball. Right now he is doing what he is doing on pure talent. Think what he will be like once he really becomes a complete player who gets every aspect of the game.
"l call Bryce 'the Justin Bieber of baseball' because he is an internet sensation. Every kid playing baseball today follows his every move. His hustle and love for playing the game right has the chance to influence a generation of kids just like Rose did for my generation. Fans in Washington and around baseball have to love the way this kid plays. He is just great for baseball."
All quotes were obtained firsthand by James Williams during a telephone interview with Harold Reynolds of the MLB Network.