Legions of loyal Nats fans streamed into Nationals Park hoping they could embrace the positive side of Bryce Harper’s 2018 season so far.
Harper had struggled in the first half of the season to hit at a batting average indicative of a superstar.
Yet, Harper had been able to tally home runs to this point in the year in order to justify the superstar tag that carries the most power we bestow upon our favorite athletes.
DC supporters could have booed him, but they didn’t, instead saving that treatment for Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves.
They could have told me they were excited to see him leave, if that’s what his future holds, but they didn’t, instead some of them telling me supporting Harper was the sole reason they were in attendance on this hot July night.
Chants of “let’s go Harper” rang throughout the ballpark led by teammates Sean Doolittle and Max Scherzer.
“It’s our home, it’s our ballpark. There has been nothing better,” Harper said.
A .214 batting average was temporarily forgotten. Instead the focus was on his 23 home runs so far this year and his ability to blast em with the best of them.
This was a fantastic all around Home Run Derby.
Chicago Cub’s star Kyle Schwarber beat Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros 16-15 in the first round after Schwarber needed his bonus 30 seconds to get to 16. Bregman’s final two bombs fell just a few feet short of climbing over the left-center field wall.
Schwarber then beat Phillies All-Star Rhys Hoskins 21-20 in one of the best rounds I have ever seen. The Great Schwarbino took the edge with just one second left on the clock.
It was destiny that it would be the home team hero Harper facing off against the powerful Schwarber in the final round.
Schwarber would earn the bonus after jacking two shots over 440 feet per the current rules of the derby. He would finish with 18 home runs after hitting just one in his extra 30 seconds of time.
Bryce Harper stepped into the batters box with a chance to eradicate his mental struggles of the season and grab a title that may not mean much, but could provide him an edge and could give his city a boost after Washington finished 48-48 in the first half of the year.
The talk in the media area was all about Bryce looking loose and playing like a kid again.
With his dad pitching to him Harper looked confident.
He got off to a slow start. He called timeout early. Things were not going well. They didn’t get better immediately but a strange thing happened.
The crowd never quit on him. He never quit on them. Both parties stuck it out to the very end.
The fans stayed patient. Bryce stayed patient. He lined up a stretch where he was hitting nothing but home runs.
Suddenly it was tied at 18 and Harper just needed one blast in his 30 seconds of bonus time in order to win the thing.
With a deafening roar, including a few fist pumps in the press area, Bryce Harper hit a derby winning home run.
A season maligned with teammates coping with injury, offensive inconsistency, and more questions than answers found a bright moment for a young superstar.