HERNDON, Va. -- To the wide smiles and admiring faces of several dozen Little Leaguers on Monday morning, Bryce Harper left another imprint on the Washington, D.C., area with the dedication of the Bryce Harper All-Star Complex at Fred Crabtree Park.But it was what Harper said unrelated to the facility
HERNDON, Va. -- To the wide smiles and admiring faces of several dozen Little Leaguers on Monday morning, Bryce Harper left another imprint on the Washington, D.C., area with the dedication of the Bryce Harper All-Star Complex at Fred Crabtree Park.
But it was what Harper said unrelated to the facility -- which he personally donated to help renovate -- that made the days of those in attendance of the ceremony.
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"Sorry, Davey Johnson," Harper joked to his first Major League manager, as he heaped praise on current Nationals skipper Dave Martinez. "He's one of the best managers I've ever played for. His door is always open, every single day. I look forward to hopefully playing with him for the next 10-12 years. He's one of the best. We'll see what happens."
The elation for those in attendance was boosted by the main reason for the event. Harper -- joined by Johnson, Martinez, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, principal owner Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, among others -- was there to unveil the second baseball complex bearing Harper's name in the D.C. area.
Located 28 miles from Nationals Park and near Harper's home in Northern Virginia, Fred Crabtree Park now features two newly renovated fields, thanks in part to what was described as a generous donation from the outfielder himself. In addition to the Virginia complex, Bryce Harper Field resides at the Takoma Community Center in Northwest D.C.
"Growing up, you always wondered what field you were going to play at, and seeing that you were playing at a nice field that day, there was nothing better," Harper said after he took pictures and showed off his cleats for the T-Mobile Home Run Derby with kids in attendance. "Being able to have these kids play at my field each and every night is pretty incredible. Very excited for them."
"Each season, I get excited for a new Nats uniform and a new batting helmet or bat," said Donovan Willson, a 10-year-old player in Reston Herndon Little League. "But none of that compares to how excited I am for the opportunity to play on these new Bryce Harper fields."
Also in attendance were members of Harper's family, including his father Ron, mother Sheri and wife Kayla. Harper got emotional while describing his time growing up playing on fields exactly like the one he helped renovate for Monday's ceremony.
"Growing up, that was one thing that I really enjoyed -- going to the field with my dad," Harper said, choking up and fighting back tears. "Going to the park with your dad and having mom yelling and screaming in the stands, there's nothing better than that."
Harper also said that while the new facility will bring great baseball opportunities to Little Leaguers in the area, he encouraged kids to remain kids. He expressed his desire for children to play all different types of sports and games; joining up with recommendations from Aspen Institute Project Play, of which MLB is a sponsor.
"I don't have kids yet, but I hope my kid plays hockey … for the [Vegas] Golden Knights," Harper said to a cacophony of groans and laughs from residents in Washington Capitals territory. "Sorry about the boos."
Though it continues to remain unclear whether Harper will remain in the nation's capital past the 2018 season, he has made his legacy in the area clear, by both his on-the-field excellence and off-the-field generosity, Martinez said.
"I get to see this kid every day, and to see his passion not only for himself but for his teammates and coaching staff -- he's a ballplayer," Martinez said after the ceremony. "More than that, he's a great human being and person."
Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter at @zachsilver