Rogers: Harper, Trout have starry futures
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (MCT) — In the relative privacy of a dugout, among guys you’ve come to know as friends, the true nature of personalities is revealed.
Bryce Harper seemed to flash his true, highly confident self in an Arizona Fall League dugout last October. It was the bottom of the ninth and the Scottsdale Scorpions were trailing the Mesa Solar Sox 7-5.
“He said, ‘You first two guys get on, I’ll hit a walk-off homer,’ ” Mike Trout said. “Then he did it. It’s pretty amazing the things he’s done at his age.”
Harper’s eyes light up when he’s asked about that game. His description is, typically, more colorful than Trout’s.
“I said, ‘The first two guys get on, and I’m going to drop a bomb and walk off, show them we own this place,’ ” Harper said. “That was fun.”
The fun seems to be only beginning for the 19-year-old Harper and the 20-year-old Trout. Neither will be on the field when the game begins Tuesday night, but in many ways the two AFL teammates are leading their leagues into the All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s really good to have both Trout and Harper here,” said Tony La Russa, who is managing the National League team. “Those guys are going to be very good for major league baseball for a long time.”
Looking around at their surroundings, both Harper and Trout are appropriately wide-eyed for the first of what should be many All-Star appearances. They have become somewhat joined at the hip, promoted to the big leagues on the same day (April 28) and making one exciting play after another since they’ve been there.
Harper and Trout exchanged good-luck texts on the way to their big league debuts and one always notices when the other gets a big hit or makes an eye-popping play in the outfield.
“He has 30 bags already,” Harper said. “That’s unbelievable. He’s hitting about .350. Unbelievable.”
Trout has energized an Angels team that was 6-14 when he arrived. He’s leading the American League with a .341 batting average, has 12 home runs and 26 stolen bases in 64 games, and with him hitting in front of Albert Pujols the Angels seem capable of an October run. Players voted him onto the AL team.
Shades of Fred Lynn, the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player for the Red Sox in 1975.
The Nationals were 14-6 and in first place when Harper arrived ahead of schedule. Ryan Zimmerman was headed to the disabled list and manager Davey Johnson convinced general manager Mike Rizzo to give him Harper, not someone to be a spare part.
Harper hasn’t been as spectacular as Trout but is contributing to a first-place team. He’s batting .282 with eight homers, 25 RBIs and 10 stolen bases — good enough numbers that La Russa was able to name him to the All-Star team when Yadier Molina was scratched from the roster.
These kids are in a spotlight they have craved since their Little League days, which weren’t that long ago.
Trout, who grew up in southern New Jersey, tailgated outside Citizens Bank Park when the Phillies got to the World Series in 2008, although he didn’t have the pull to get tickets. Harper notoriously skipped his senior year in high school so he could begin his pro career in 2010, not 2011. He followed Stephen Strasburg as consecutive No. 1 overall picks in the draft for the Nationals, who no longer look like the orphans they were when they moved from Montreal.
“He’s gone through a lot,” Trout said. “He’s been ranked as the No. 1 prospect since he was 6 years old.”
While Harper grabbed the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16, some scouts have long felt Trout may have better tools. He has more speed and in time could match Harper in power.
Baseball America’s Jim Callis, who studies these things like an investor does an earnings sheet, has ranked Trout ahead of Harper the last couple of years. And former super-agent Leigh Steinberg recently praised Trout as the biggest “rookie supernova” in baseball since Mickey Mantle, saying he evokes Robert Redford in “The Natural.”
Don’t be surprised if Harper or Trout does something to decide which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series. They won’t be, not after everything else they’ve done in such short order.
“It’s really sort of crazy,” Harper said. “It doesn’t seem that long ago since we were playing together in the AFL ... But this isn’t the end of the season. The end of the season is the World Series, hopefully. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”