Bryce Harper, the NL East leading Washington Nationals' young outfielder, with still single-digit home runs and a batting average lower than .300, is clearly not the best player in baseball, at least not yet. He is, however, by far the most interesting. The kid is hyped and scrutinized more than any other player because he is a contradiction; he is simultaneously a throwback to old-school ballplayers while also being the face of baseball’s future...well that and his ability to piss off Ozzie Guillen.
Not since Ken Griffey Jr. has a kid put such a youthful stamp on the game. Harper walks around with a certain swagger that many traditionalists find abhorrent and younger fans find exhilarating. So many of the things he does from strutting around in a perfectly coiffed mohawk to blowing kisses to a pitcher after hitting a home run show that he is truly a 21st century player. He even came up in an nontraditional manner, maneuvering around MLB rules to get drafted earlier and allowing his detractors to claim he does not care about the game, only the cash. He cemented his legacy as the leader of the new-age ballplayers by incorporating the word "bro" into his catchphrase, showing perfect command of frat house slang.
Anyone who has watched him since being called up, however, knows that he is as much Lou Gehrig as he is Ken Griffey Jr. Harper runs to first hard every time, regardless of if he grounded straight to third or hit the gap in left. He wears number 34, because three and four make seven, the number of Mickey Mantle, his favorite player. He publicly stated his preference for Chipper Jones’ inclusion in the MLB All-Star Game even though it would mean his exclusion. Since being called up, he has done nothing but show respect to the game's legends and hustle out every play.
The fact that Harper can be both old-school and new-school is what makes his every action so fascinating. You may like him or you may hate him, but we all agree he is riveting, bro.
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