Bryce Harper makes minor league debut
ROME, Ga. -- Bryce Harper hit an RBI single in his first professional at-bat, a nifty start in Class A for the overall No. 1 draft pick last summer by the Washington Nationals.
"I had big butterflies going out there tonight but after that first pitch was thrown I felt really good and felt really solid at the plate," Harper said. "I had a good BP today and our guys went out there and played hard and that's what you should expect every game from us."
Harper, who signed with the club last August and hit .319 in the fall instructional league, received a smattering of applause when he was introduced pregame before the announced crowd of 4,133.
The 18-year-old Harper singled to shallow center field on a full-count offspeed pitch in the first for the Hagerstown Suns in their South Atlantic League game against the Rome Braves. The power-hitting prospect then stole his first base.
"I was really excited to get up there and when I got those two base hits I felt really good," Harper said. "I just need to be a little more patient to get my pitch and work off of that."
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He added another hit in the third inning, when he laid down a bunt down the third base line with a runner on first. The pitcher missed the grab trying to field it, and Harper was safe at first. He was later caught stealing, but the play allowed the runner from third to score.
"If I can lay one down and get a runner over I think that's huge about my game," Harper said. "It helped us out and that's all that matters to us."
A strikeout and a groundout in his final two times up left Harper 2 for 4 in his first minor league game, and his Suns came away with a 3-2 victory.
"I tried to go up there and get my pitch to swing at and they got me in my third at-bat and fourth at-bat so I've got to learn from those two times and hopefully get a couple of more hits tomorrow," he said.
"It's a blast. It's everything that I've ever wanted to do. I'm here to work hard and I'm here to win."
Harper stood out when he came on the field for warmups, because he was only player wearing stirrups and orange-and-black shoes.
He hit several balls well over the right-field fence during batting practice, with some shots clearing the wall and heading toward the parking lot. Harper started in right field.
He signed a $9.9 million contract after the Nationals picked him, the biggest payday for a drafted position player.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press