On Friday night, immediately after grounding out to Joey Votto in the seventh inning of the Washington Nationals' victory over the Cincinnati Reds, Bryce Harper threw down his bat in anger. In an almost comical scenario, the bat bounced off the dugout wall and struck Harper on his forehead, just above his left eye, requiring 10 stitches.
Maybe it was a good thing.
For Monday night, Harper, the most talked-about No. 1 draft pick since ... well, since teammate Stephen Strasburg was chosen a year earlier in 2009, finally hit his first home run. It was a mammoth blast to dead center field that surely lifted a huge burden off the 19-year-old's shoulders.
Pressure on highly touted rookies is nothing new. It's been the way of things since the beginning. In 1951, the New York Giants issued a press release in advance of the major league debut of one Willie Mays, stating, "No minor league player in a generation has created so great a stir as has Mays." Mays started his brilliant career 0-for-12 before getting a home run for his first hit.
Harper's blast wasn't as tension-relieving as when Mays got his first hit. Nonetheless, for a man for whom many are predicting 500 home runs, it was a reassuring sight.