This content was originally found in Issue No. 19 of this year’s Senators Program
Bryce Harper was in Harrisburg for a short time (the outfielder played only 37 games in a Senators’ uniform), but it was a noteworthy and memorable residence on City Island. Harper left an indelible mark despite batting a pedestrian .256 with three home runs and 12 runs batted in over 147 plate appearances.
On the morning of July 4, 2011 word leaked that the Washington Nationals were promoting Harper from Low-A Hagerstown. He had terrorized the South Atlantic League and treated the offerings of opposing pitchers like batting practice pitches over the first half of the season. The promotion itself wasn’t a surprise, but skipping High-A Potomac and having the 18-year-old wunderkind report to Harrisburg was a little startling.
From the outset, things were definitely different. The media onslaught followed Harper’s every swing and move at batting practice that afternoon. A record attendance of 8,092 fans poured into Metro Bank Park for that night’s game hoping for something special in Harper’s Harrisburg debut. The 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick didn’t disappoint as he lined the first pitch he saw, an 88 mph fastball from Erie starter Mark Sorensen, into center field for a single. Harper finished his first Class AA game 2-for-3 and impressively raced from first to third on an infield groundout, easily beating the return throw.
Harper would make headlines a month later when frustrated with home plate umpire Max Guyll’s strike zone the superstar to be slammed his helmet into the ground to earn an immediate ejection. Harper quickly moved inches away from Guyll yelling at the ump before showing him how far outside the called strike three was. It was an image that Harper’s detractors would use to question the prospect’s makeup and maturity.
If that was his lowest moment as a Senator, Harper’s greatest would come only two days later. Down one run in the ninth inning, Harper launched a two-run, walk-off home run to dead center field, traveling well beyond 450 feet, to give the Senators a 3-2 victory over the visiting Trenton Thunder. “It’s definitely the furthest one I’ve ever seen hit,” then Senators hitting coach Troy Gingrich said of the blast. Harper displayed his usual emotion with a fist thrust as he rounded first and then a helmet toss prior to landing on home plate and getting mobbed by his teammates. “It’s always nice to win a ballgame. It’s always fun to walk a team off and go enjoy it with your team,” Harper said.
Less than a week later, Harper’s 2011 season would come to an early end as the slugger would deal with a hamstring injury that shelved him through the playoffs. But for six magical weeks in Harrisburg, Harper flashed the brilliance that would carry him to the heights of the baseball world with the Washington Nationals.
“I don’t care. I really don’t. As long as I can look in the mirror and say I played as hard as I could. I think people get opinions when they see me play the game and see the hard-nosed, chip-on-my-shoulder kind of thing. That’s the way I play. I want to kick your teeth in. And after the game I can walk out of those doors and be the happiest person in the world.” – – Bryce Harper
“Last year he started grasping who Bryce Harper is. Rather than trying to create something more, to live up to someone else’s idea of who he should be, he just grasped who Bryce was and ran with it.” – – Danny Espinosa
“I want him to play 100 miles an hour with his hair on fire.” – – Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo
“To come to a place like this, it’s like, ‘Holy crap.’ It’s one step closer to the big leagues. I’m going to go out, play hard and let [the Nationals] make the decisions. I’m just trying to win ball games here in Harrisburg.” – – Harper on his arrival at Double-A
“He’s the real deal. You know why? It’s like he doesn’t take the game and the gift that he has for granted. He’s maximizing everything.” – – Damon Oppenheimer, scouting director for the Yankees
“Whenever people say how good he is, he likes to say, ‘I’m not done yet. I still have work to do.’ He’s going to get a lot better, and I say that because of how hard he works. I don’t think he’ll ever rest on his laurels.” – – Ron Harper, Bryce’s father
“I put more pressure on myself than anybody in this world.” – – Harper
“I can’t remember a time when Bryce didn’t have big calluses on his hands from hitting. He was working when the rest of us weren’t.” – – Tanner Chauncey, childhood friend and teammate
“I feel sorry for the wall if he keeps running into them.” – – Davey Johnson
Awards & Accolades
- 2015 National League MVP (youngest unanimous winner ever)
- 4-time All Star (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016)
- 2012 National League Rookie of the Year
- Silver Slugger Award (2015)
- NL Hank Aaron Award (2015)
- 2010 Golden Spikes Award winner as the best amateur baseball player in the United States
- Youngest player in baseball history with 40 home runs and 120 walks in a season
The series win was the first for Harrisburg since late July
Down to their last out, the Harrisburg Senators rallied off Altoona closer Montana DuRapau for a stunning 4-3 victory in front of 4,052 fans at FNB Field on Wednesday night. The win marked the first time since July 26 and 27 that Harrisburg (66-63) has won back-to-back games.
Kevin Keyes delivered the game-winning RBI with a single up the middle that scored Andrew Stevenson from third base. Stevenson had previously singled home Shawn Pleffner in the inning to tie the score and set up the late game heroics.
“I thought we’ve matched up with their closer pretty good all year. We’ve put good at-bats against him, but he’s always made pitches. At some point, that luck runs out. Tonight was the night,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “Hopefully this will get some things going for us. I’m proud of how they’ve fought through this rough stretch in August. I hope they relish this moment that they get to play for something.”
The game had started out as a pitcher’s duel as Harrisburg’s Michael Brady and Altoona’s Cody Dickson posted zeroes on the scoreboard until the Senators scored in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, Adrian Sanchez singled and Stephen Perez followed with a line drive that ended up down in the left field corner allowing Sanchez to score on the RBI double.
Brady scattered four hits and three walks while striking out five in five scoreless innings of work. Altoona greeted reliever Derek Self in the sixth inning with consecutive singles and a sacrifice fly to tie the score up at one.
The Senators answered in the bottom half as Spencer Kieboom led off the frame with a walk. Sanchez stroked a single that got by right-fielder Stetson Allie to the wall as Kieboom scored all the way from first.
It was a lead that would be short-lived as Altoona took advantage of two walks from reliever Mitch Lively. The Curve made Lively pay for his wildness as pinch-hitter Edwin Espinal laced a double over the outstretched glove of right-fielder Rafael Bautista as both runners scored to give Altoona a 3-2 lead heading into the late innings.
Nick Lee worked a perfect top of the ninth inning to pocket his second win of the season.
“If he throws it over, his stuff is nasty,” LeCroy said. “He’s got a plus breaking ball. His fastball is 93-94 with some angle when he hits on it. When he does that, that’s what people rave about.”
The Senators head to Manchester, N.H. to face the Hartford Yard Goats in a four-game series beginning on Thursday evening at 5:05 p.m. Harrisburg sends Phillips Valdez to the hill to square off against Sam Howard. The game can be heard on Fox Sports 1460 AM, on the internet at senatorsbaseball.com, or through the TuneIn and iHeart Radio apps with The Matt LeCroy Show beginning the radio broadcast at 4:50 p.m.
Terry and Matt discuss the Senators First Annual Miniature Golf Tournament being played today, last night’s 4-3 victory, and going back to an empty Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
- Pitching Matchups:
- Senators: RH Michael Brady (3-6, 3.34) vs. Altoona: LH Cody Dickson (10-5, 3.83)
- Michael Brady is on the hill for the Senators. He’s making his tenth start for the Senators. As a starter he’s 2-6 with a 3.48 ERA. He’s 2-3 with a 2.51 ERA at FNB Field this season. He was a SS/3B at the University of California and was originally selected by the Marlins as an infielder. Brady’s last start was for Triple-A Syracuse on August 18 when he earned a no decision going seven innings allowing one run on four hits while striking out eight.
- Cody Dickson is on the hill for the Curve tonight. The 24-year-old is 10-5 with a 3.83 ERA for the Curve this year. He was selected in the 4th round of the 2013 draft by the Pirates out of Sam Houston State. Dickson has been better on the road than at home this year, posting a 5-2 record with a 2.59 ERA in 12 round starts. He has made one start against the Senators this year on July 16 at Peoples Natural Gas Field going six innings and allowing five hits and two runs. The Sens rallied for two runs in the 12th to win. He was 15-6 in high school and set the Mansfield (TX) career record for wins.
- The Senators and Altoona Curve play the final game of their three-game series tonight at FNB Field. It’s also the final game of their 17-game season series. With their 4-3 win last night, the Senators have won the season series with the first-place Curve.
- Thursday, August 25 vs. Hartford at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (Manchester, NH), 5:05 p.m.
Probable Pitching Matchup – Senators: RH Phillips Valdez (4-4, 5.37) vs. Hartford: LH Sam Howard (5-6, 4.41)
Mapes notches his league-leading 12th victory
The Harrisburg Senators held off an Altoona Curve charge to top the division leaders, 4-3, in front of 3,487 fans at FNB Field on Tuesday night. The win gave Harrisburg pitcher Tyler Mapes his Eastern League-leading 12th victory.
“I don’t think my boys are going to quit,” manager Matt LeCroy said about the win. “We’re not out of it yet. You never know, we can get on a little roll.”
“I’m proud of them. They came in and fought.”
Altoona drew first blood as outfielder Barrett Barnes launched a solo home run in the top of the second inning off Harrisburg starter Mapes (12-8). But the Senators’ stopper kept the Curve off the board the rest of his outing as the 25-year-old right-hander scattered six hits over five innings while walking one and striking out five.
“He’s just been so consistent for us,” LeCroy said. “I wasn’t quite sure what ten days off for him would look like, but he actually threw the ball pretty good.”
Harrisburg (65-63) put Mapes in position to get the win with some clutch two-out hits in the third after loading the bases on a single from the pitcher and two walks. Drew Ward cashed in with a single up the middle that plated two to give the Senators a one-run lead. Another walk re-loaded the bases and Adrian Sanchez slashed a single to score two and push the advantage to 4-1.
“He’s sort of our veteran guy right now. He’s been here the longest,” LeCroy said about Sanchez. “He needs to step up like this more often.”
But as Altoona relievers shut down the Senators, the Curve batters chipped away as they scored a run off both Sam Runion and Wander Suero in the sixth and seventh innings to cut the lead down to 4-3. The run off Suero came courtesy of a solo shot from Stetson Allie, his 13th home run of his career against Harrisburg.
Suero would get his revenge an inning later as Altoona loaded the bases on a hit batsman, single, and walk with two outs to bring Allie back up to the plate. This time, Suero froze the outfielder on a curve ball that got him looking for a called third strike.
Andrew Robinson avoided the drama and worked a perfect ninth inning for his sixth save of the season.
The Senators conclude their series with the Altoona Curve on Wednesday evening at FNB Field as Michael Brady will face Cody Dickson. Bring your favorite four-legged friend with you since it will be the Senators’ last Wet Nose Wednesday of the 2107 season. The game can be heard on Fox Sports 1460 AM, on the internet at senatorsbaseball.com, or through the TuneIn and iHeart Radio apps with The Matt LeCroy Show beginning the radio broadcast at 6:45 p.m.
Terry and Matt discuss bus travel in the minor leagues, getaway days at the hotel, and the luxury and convenience in the major leagues.
- Pitching Matchups:
- Senators: RH Tyler Mapes (11-8, 3.13) vs. Altoona: RH Clay Holmes (10-8, 4.08)
- Tyler Mapes makes his 23rd start for the Senators tonight. He is tied with former National farmhand Nick Pivetta (who has since been promoted to AAA) with 11 league-leading wins. Mapes his also in the Eastern League top five for ERA (3.13), WHIP (1.20), innings pitched (138), complete games (3), and fewest baserunners per 9 (11.41).
- Clay Holmes is on the hill for the Curve tonight. The 23-year-old was taken in the ninth round of the 2011 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was committed to play baseball at Auburn University before signing with the Pirates. In his last ten outings, all starts, he’s 4-4 with a 2.95 ERA. He faced the Senators on July 15 in Altoona and lasted just four innings and allowed five runs in the loss to the Sens. Away from Peoples Natural Gas Field he’s 5-5 and a 4.26 ERA in 13 starts. He was assigned to Altoona to start the season but sent to Extended Spring Training on June 6, but assigned back to Altoona on June 11.
- Altoona slugged three home runs on their way to a 7-1 win over the Senators.
- The Senators enter play 2.5 games behind Akron for the wild card spot in the Western Division. Harrisburg hasn’t won a series or won back-to-back games since July 25-26 against New Hampshire.
- Wednesday, August 24 vs. Altoona, 7:00 p.m.
Probable Pitching Matchup – Senators: RH Michael Brady (3-6, 3.34) vs. Altoona: LH Cody Dickson (10-5, 3.83)
Benincasa and Lively combine for three scoreless
The Altoona Curve slugged three home runs to best the Harrisburg Senators, 7-1, in front of 3,348 fans at FNB Field on Monday evening. The loss coupled with Akron’s victory over Reading pushed the Senators 2.5 games out of the playoff picture.
Altoona jumped on Harrisburg starter Mark Blackmar for two runs on four singles and a walk in the first inning before the Senators even came to bat. Harrisburg (64-63) looked to respond as they loaded the bases off Tyler Glasnow making a rehab start for Altoona, but a strikeout and flyout ended the threat.
“Offensively, we had a chance in the first inning to get back in it but we had some poor at-bats,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “That would have changed things dramatically. It’s just been a bad bump in the road that we can’t get out of.”
LeCroy pointed to the work of MLB veteran Chris Stewart behind the plate for Altoona as a clear difference maker on Monday night. “He exposed everybody’s weakness once he exposed it. That’s the difference when you have a guy back there willing to call for the same pitch over and over until you prove to him you can hit it.”
Blackmar struggled working down and away from hitters, until Altoona used the long ball to extend their lead. In the fourth, Stetson Allie and pinch-hitter Tomas Morales went back-to-back to give the Curve a 6-0 advantage. The Senators got one back in the bottom half of the inning on a pair of singles and an error, but it was the only run they would plate in the game.
Altoona would go yard once more off Blackmar (3-4) as Brandon Barnes clubbed a solo shot to make it 7-1. Blackmar allowed seven runs on eight hits and three walks, while striking out four.
“I don’t think he had much command,” LeCroy said. “But I really needed him to go to do what he did. I know he’s worn it a couple of times but you don’t want to go into tomorrow handcuffed.”
Relievers Robert Benincasa and Mitch Lively worked three scoreless innings to finish the game.
Adrian Sanchez accounted for three of the Senators’ seven hits. Jose Marmolejos also reached base three times on a double and two walks.
The Senators continue their three-game series with the Altoona Curve on Tuesday evening at FNB Field as Michael Brady squares off against Clay Holmes. The game can be heard on Fox Sports 1460 AM, on the internet at senatorsbaseball.com, or through the TuneIn and iHeart Radio apps with The Matt LeCroy Show beginning the radio broadcast at 6:45 p.m.
- Pitching Matchups:
- Senators: RH Mark Blackmar (3-3, 4.15) vs. Altoona: RH Tyler Glasnow (rehab start)
- Mark Blackmar is on the hill for the Senators tonight. He’s 3-3 with the Senators in six starts. Three of his first four starts were quality starts for the Sens.
- For just the second time this season, the Senators lost when leading after the eighth inning as Richmond plated three in the final frame for a 6-5 win.
- Altoona is leading the Western Division by 3.5 games over Akron and 5.0 games over the Senators. The Senators enter play 1.5 games behind Akron for the wild card spot in the Western Division.
- Harrisburg hasn’t won a series or won back-to-back games since July 25-26 against New Hampshire.
- Tuesday, August 23 vs. Altoona, 7:00 p.m.
Probable Pitching Matchup – Senators: RH Michael Brady (3-6, 3.34) vs. Altoona: RH Clay Holmes (10-8, 4.08)
Terry and Matt discuss the weekend series with Richmond, players being removed from the game for not hustling, and finishing strong in “Salary Drive” month.