Bryce Harper, already a familiar name to baseball fans beyond the small town of Hagerstown, Md., hit the first of what he hopes will be many home runs as a professional, slugging a two-run drive in the third inning of the Class A Suns' 6-4 loss to the Lexington Legends on Wednesday night.
"I got a pitch I could drive and it felt pretty good," Harper said. "It was a fastball outside high I was able to get a good look at and I swung."
Harper's two-run homer to left field off Ruben Alaniz marked his first in the Minors, putting a little legitimacy behind the hype that has surrounded an 18-year-old outfielder who entered the game batting just .238 in his first six starts.
"I don't think I was struggling," he said. "I don't really think I had any bad at-bats. I felt really good at the plate. ... I don't think I struggled one bit. I had good at-bats, I had quality at-bats and I wasn't overmatched at all."
"I got [the ball] up in the strike zone and he got good wood on it, it as simple as that," Alaniz added. "With a guy like him, you obviously can't do that."
The No. 1 pick in the 2010 Draft, the converted catcher began his Minor League career last week with Hagerstown after signing with the Nationals for $9.9 million. His only other homer in a Nationals uniform came on Oct. 30, 2010, when he went deep for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League, a circuit that showcases and refines the talents of the top prospects in baseball.
"I've been handling (pressure) all of my life," Harper said. "There's no pressure on me. I just go out there and play every game like it's my last. As long as we're winning, that's all that matters to me."
Now batting .240, Harper got off to slow start, going 2-for-11 with three strikeouts in his first three games. His home run Wednesday was also his first extra-base hit. He's 6-for-28 with five RBIs, three walks and a steal in seven games.
"Every day I go out there, I get my motor running," Harper said. "Everything gets me going, the smell of the grass, the leather, the dirt, the crowd, everything gets me going. Especially teams that don't like you or fans that don't like you. They want you to go down, and I actually like that. I love all of it."