Thom Loverro: So far, Harper's a heck of a story for Nationals

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Thom Loverro

Well, Washington Nationals rookie phenom Bryce Harper had one heck of a beginning to his major league career -- a debut at Dodger Stadium, a game-winning hit before the home crowd, a steal of home on national television after getting hit by a pitch.

It will make a heck of a first chapter when his story is written someday.

Oh, wait a minute. That book already has been written.

Yes, "The Last Natural," written by a Las Vegas writer, is due out next month.

When all is said and done, it may just be the first of a series of volumes -- sort of like a baseball version of Harry Potter if his first eight games in the majors are any indication.

You might say Harper captured the attention of the nation when Cole Hamels nailed him with a pitch in Sunday night's series finale against the Phillies at Nationals Park -- and Harper responded by stealing home later that inning.

But America already had its eyes on Harper, which is why the whole Sunday night drama is such big news. He has had the country's attention since he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16, and he has done nothing since then to cause America to forget him and move on.

Google Bryce Harper, and you get 87 million results. Google Babe Ruth, and you get 20 million.

The Phillies were certainly paying attention -- at least Hamels, who later admitted he threw at Harper on purpose and was suspended for five games as a result.

"I was trying to hit him," Hamels told reporters after the game. "I'm not going to deny it."

So Hamels was sending a message to a 19-year-old kid who has played eight major league baseball games.

Heck, before this the Phillies barely acknowledged the existence of the Nationals. John Lannan, making his rookie debut in 2007, hit Chase Utley with a pitch, breaking his hand, and followed that up by hitting Ryan Howard. It wasn't intentional, but he was still kicked out of the game. It barely caused a ripple between the Nationals and the Phillies.

Now they are throwing purpose pitches in the first inning of a game.

It wasn't lost on Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, who told reporters after the game, "I was actually a little surprised. Usually it seems that the Phillies aren't that hyped up to come play us."

But Harper commands attention. He seems to be in the middle of everything, which sort of has an Alex Rodriguez kind of feel to it. We'll have to see how that plays out, but we will be watching.

By the way, A-Rod and the Yankees come to town in mid June. Wonder what we'll see then? Perhaps a chapter in the next book of Bryce Harper.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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