|Photo by US-Presswire|
After Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton withdrew from the game due to a right knee injury on Saturday, National League manager Tony La Russa selected the Nationals’ phenom for the team’s final roster spot. At 19 years old, Harper will become the youngest position player in MLB history to be named an All-Star.
Harper learned of the announcement moments after the team’s 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies. He was called over by manager Davey Johnson who was standing beside general manager Mike Rizzo across the locker room.
“When Davey called me over there it was either I was thinking I was going down because Rizzo and everybody was over there or the All-Star game. Good thing it was the All-Star game. I’m happy. I am.”
Speaking to reporters just minutes after learning he was an All-Star, Harper said he hadn’t even had time to tell his parents.
“No, I haven’t. They’ll probably be really excited and try to come out there and be around me,” he said.
When he heard the historical significance of the honor, Harper was humbled and appreciative.
“I didn’t really put any thought into that. But it’s pretty cool. I think that’s a pretty cool deal. And I’m excited. I really am,” he said.
“I’m really excited to get out there and be around those kind of guys and just try to actually enjoy myself as much as I can and really take it all in.”
Nationals manager Davey Johnson has a unique perspective having coached also Doc Gooden when he broke into the league with the New York Mets. He compared the two in terms of their age.
"I mean I don't look at them as being young. I look at the talent and, you know, when Dwight was 17 he looked like a big leaguer except he just didn't have the innings to pitch in the big leagues. I mean Harp, he does everything a little bit better than average."
"I'll say this. Doc was the best pitcher I ever had at that age and Harper's the best position player I ever had at that age. But they're both very special. It's fun to watch them go out there and watch them express their talent. It's just really fun from my viewpoint. You never know quite what you're going to expect but you know it's going to be special," he said.
Harper will join teammates Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals’ 1st overall pick in 2009. Harper was picked first in 2010. He becomes the team’s fourth 2012 All-Star as shortstop Ian Desmond will keep the honor after pulling out due to a left oblique injury.
Harper is hitting .283 with eight home runs and 25 RBI in 62 games after being called up on April 28. He was not selected for the original roster by La Russa and finished third in fan votes behind David Freese and Michael Bourn for what was intended to be the final spot.
There is also now a chance Harper could be in the Home Run Derby as Stanton was expected to participate. It is up to derby captain Matt Kemp if he wants to add Harper, but the Nationals’ outfielder doesn’t expect to be the replacement.
“I don’t see that happening. I don’t know if I can take his spot. I think him being able to hit home runs like that is pretty impressive. So if I get a call from Kemp – if it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” he said.
Harper had said he was looking forward to getting a mental break from the grind of his first major league season. His first words when asked how it felt to be picked were, “I don’t get to go home.” He may have to get used to it as this could be the first of many.