May 21, 2015, 5:56 PM EST
Bryce Harper has known Yankees reliever Chasen Shreve since the Nationals right fielder was just 16 years old. The two played together in a scout tournament for one season and then for another year at the College of Southern Nevada, along with Bryce’s older brother, Bryan. Shreve took some time this week while New York was in town to share some stories about the two-time All-Star.
Shreve first recalled the time he met Harper when the two were teenagers.
“He was just on the cover of Sports Illustrated,” Shreve said. “The first time I met him, it was in a scout tournament and we were playing on the same team. He came from football practice to one of our practices. He had the cutoff sleeves and the big face paint. I met him, he was a really nice guy. I thought he was more of a football player than a baseball player. When he played, he was just unreal.”
Shreve understands the hype that Harper brought with him when he entered the majors and the scrutiny he has endured as a phenom. He remembers Harper’s ability to make headlines in college, long before his name was the subject of national talk show debates.
“I remember we were playing at CSN and they kept throwing over to pick him off and they kept smacking him [in the helmet with the first baseman’s glove], like three times in a row. He ends up hitting a home run and he points in their dugout. It got blown up for some reason. It always happened like that. Everything got magnified. I think he’s handled it well. You can’t be perfect.”
Shreve described Harper as a player at the age of 16.
“He was really wild. He could hit a home run at his face or strike out on a pitch right down the middle,” he said. “He was a good catcher, great arm… He was young, 15 or 16 when he came over. He was young, but he was good.”
Shreve said the two talk on a nearly weekly basis during the season and hang out quite a bit over the winter back in Nevada. They watch fights at the Harper household and go golfing whenever they can.
“He may hit the ball farther, but I usually win,” Shreve said.
Having known Harper for six-plus years, one can imagine what Shreve is thinking now that the former No. 1 overall pick is one of the best players in baseball. Shreve said it has been nice to watch Harper reach his potential in the big leagues.
“I think everybody that knows him has been waiting for this, just waiting for him to grow into what we thought he would become, what he has become and what he will become. It’s just unreal,” he said.
Shreve said before Tuesday’s game he would be very nervous if he pitched to Harper in the big leagues. They had only faced each other once in the minors – Harper popped up to the shortstop – and Shreve had thrown to Harper “a thousand times” over the years, as Harper was his catcher.
The matchup did end up happening Tuesday night, and Shreve struck him out.
“It came in my favor tonight,” Shreve said. “We’ll see (about) next time.”
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