Bryce Harper stood in the Washington Nationals’ dugout as Nationals Park roared for him, with the unfamiliar and splendid feeling of being unsure of what he should do. Jayson Werth, his teammate and 14 years his senior, slapped him on the back and let him know it was okay. Werth told Harper, “Get up there, kid.”
Harper bounded up the steps and pointed to the 19,434 fans. He was still breathing hard from his rapid trip around the bases and the scale of the moment. Harper had hit a home run over the center field fence, a first he had waited all of his 19 years for, a moment to celebrate during the Nationals’ 8-5 victory over the San Diego Padres.
“I’ve got no words for it,” Harper said. “Hopefully it’s one of many.”
Sandy Leon had waited, too, for Monday night to come. His family and friends watched on television from his home in Venezuela as he made his major league debut. He earned his way to the majors, at 23, for his skill behind the plate, for not allowing runs to score easily. So as Chase Headley bore down on him in the fourth inning, Leon blocked the plate. Moments later, Leon left his first big league start with his arms slung over the shoulders of a trainer and a coach.
“He’s such an outstanding young man,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “His first big league game, all pumped up. That’s tough.”