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Harper joins exclusive club with 40th homer

Sep 17, 2015, 12:06 AM EST

AP

PHILADELPHIA — Bryce Harper is as much a student of the game as anybody is these days, so he understands and appreciates what he accomplished here Wednesday night. Even if he didn’t much want to talk about personal accomplishments.

“We got [17] more games left,” he said. “So I’ll answer that at the end of the year.”

Leave it to everyone else with the Nationals to gush over Harper, the newest member of the 40-homer club after another moonshot during Wednesday’s 12-2 drubbing of the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s been remarkable,” fellow outfielder Jayson Werth said. “It’s been fun to watch. I’m proud of him. He’s come a long way in a short period of time. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s become a superstar player right in front of our eyes.”

“It’s unbelievable,” left-hander Gio Gonzalez said. “It’s just fun to watch. I don’t think in my career I’ve ever played with somebody that hit 40 home runs. That just says a lot about a guy that’s 22 years old.”

Yes, it’s not simply that Harper has hit 40 homers. It’s that he has done it at such a tender age, a particularly rare achievement.

Only five others have produced 40-homer seasons before celebrating their 23rd birthday. Four of them (Eddie Mathews, who did it twice, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Bench and Mel Ott) are in the Hall of Fame. The fifth (Juan Gonzalez) might have joined them in Cooperstown if not for suspicions of PED use.

Harper’s career home run total now stands at 95. If he can somehow hit five more in the season’s final 17 games — and he’s on a run right now of nine in his last 12 games — he’d become only the fourth player in baseball history to reach the 100-homer plateau before turning 23 (joining Mathews, Ott and Tony Conigliaro).

“He has the world in the palm of his hand,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just fun to see him play. And the sky’s the limit. I think he’s got more in him than that.”

Home run No. 40 came late in a blowout victory, with Harper lofting a high drive to right-center against Phillies reliever Justin DeFratus, one hit at a towering, 39-degree launch angle that barely cleared the fence. He returned to the dugout to an unusual sight: No teammates waiting to greet him. He got a couple of high-fives from coaches, but most gave him the silent treatment before emerging from the tunnel to offer hugs.

“He deserved the silent treatment like he got,” manager Matt Williams said with a laugh. “Pretty special. Again, that’s a special talent. He really didn’t click that ball. Got enough of it. He’s swinging good. He’s seeing the ball good. We just want him to continue doing that.”

When Harper returned to the field for the bottom of the seventh, another surprise awaited him: The fan who caught his homer on the fly, wearing a powder blue throwback Phillies jersey, offered to give him the ball in exchange for an autographed one. Harper complied, putting pen to ball right there on the field and then tossing it back into the stands. Afterward, the 40th homer ball sat in his locker, ready to be added to his growing collection of memorabilia.

“Being able to get that back from him, I was very thankful,” Harper said. “They’re great fans here. They understand the game. They get the game.”

And they’ll probably get a chance to see Harper hit plenty more homers in this ballpark over the years.

As impressive as this season has been, consensus opinion around the Nationals’ clubhouse is that Harper still has only scratched the surface of his full potential.

“I think he’s got a lot to learn and a long way to go, too,” Werth said. “I’ve said it before, but when he’s 30 years old, he’s going to be a hell of a player.”

  1. ArVAFan - Sep 17, 2015 at 6:47 AM

    Pay the man, Shirley!

    Seriously, I hope the Lerners ante up big time and sign him to a long term contract.

    • hweiner3 - Sep 17, 2015 at 7:49 AM

      +1. Need to sign him to a contract like Stanton got. Harper is the real thing!

      Kudos to that Phillies fan who traded out the HR ball. Honestly, as bad as the Phillies are, I think the only ones who come to games are hardcore baseball fans, who are hoping to tell their kids that they saw one of the young stars play on the other team.

  2. NatsNut - Sep 17, 2015 at 7:23 AM

    Poor kid is probably getting drug-tested every 10 minutes.

    • ArVAFan - Sep 17, 2015 at 7:45 AM

      Yeah, the Mormons might be upset if he tested positive for caffeine .

      • Just. Dave - Sep 17, 2015 at 9:00 AM

        I wonder how they feel about him posing naked

  3. hweiner3 - Sep 17, 2015 at 7:49 AM

    +1. Need to sign him to a contract like Stanton got. Harper is the real thing!

    Kudos to that Phillies fan who traded out the HR ball. Honestly, as bad as the Phillies are, I think the only ones who come to games are hardcore baseball fans, who are hoping to tell their kids that they saw one of the young stars play on the other team.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 17, 2015 at 8:29 AM

      I’ve thought the same (hardcore) about the remaining Phillies fans. imo it was the younger, tippling – or chugging – bandwagon fans who were the worst behaved at Nats park back in the day. They’ve likely departed from the fanbase now. As well, the dinger guy was rocking an old school Carlton jersey. I suspect he appreciates the history of the game as well as an excellent individual performance.

  4. alexva6 - Sep 17, 2015 at 8:19 AM

    +1 on the Philly fan, and Bryce is getting booed less around the league as the other team fans are appreciating his greatness. he’s not just another angry face.

  5. bowdenball - Sep 17, 2015 at 8:51 AM

    Today’s division race fun fact: For all the talk of the late season collapse, the Nats have actually gained a half-game on the Mets since April 27.

    They all count the same.

    • langleyclub - Sep 17, 2015 at 9:40 AM

      Just a shame that the Nats blew late leads in all 3 home games against the Mets. Even if the Nats had only blown 1 lead the division would be at 3.5 with two and half weeks left. Doable. 7.5 is probably not. Nats need to take all 4 against the Marlins (who have a pulse unlike the Braves and Phillies), and hope the Yankees sweep (or at least take 2 out of 3 against the Mets). Would love to see the Mets feels some pressure (BTW, their young pitchers have started to struggle down the stretch)….

  6. nats106 - Sep 17, 2015 at 8:59 AM

    Not exactly a fun fact, but a good one.

    Too bad May doesn’t follow September on the calendar. At least the Nats can say they didn’t lose-they just ran out of season.

    • nats106 - Sep 17, 2015 at 9:00 AM

      I also agree with the other comments regarding Harper-he is a special talent that you want to keep in a Nationals uniform.

  7. veejh - Sep 17, 2015 at 9:59 AM

    I guess Phillies fans aren’t that bad………….nah.

  8. veejh - Sep 17, 2015 at 9:59 AM

    I guess Phillies fans aren’t that bad………….nah.

    • senators5 - Sep 17, 2015 at 3:37 PM

      True but many of he 80% that didn’t show up are.

  9. Doc - Sep 17, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    I predicted before the season that Harps, if he stayed health, would hit 40+.

    40 is still a low-ball number for this kid. Not interested in PED Bonds’ stats comparisons. of any sort.

    Watch out Babe!

    • natsguy - Sep 17, 2015 at 10:36 AM

      Boy aren’t you the great predictor. Do you have problems getting that hand behind you to pat yourself on the back.

      • Doc - Sep 17, 2015 at 10:40 AM

        No problem, Can you could pull your thumb out of your butt!

  10. Candide - Sep 17, 2015 at 10:22 AM

    The Nats this morning.

    • DaveB - Sep 17, 2015 at 11:09 AM

      +1 …. Classic!

      (Hopefully the Marlins won’t play the role of the cart driver)

  11. ward5nedc - Sep 17, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    If anyone is interested I have 2 tickets for tonight sect 227 G
    Free to the first person that emails me
    andyward.dc
    at g mail

    • ward5nedc - Sep 17, 2015 at 11:37 AM

      The tickets are claimed. Go Nats

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