I honestly didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d ever see Oliver Perez pitch again. But last Saturday night in Harrisburg, I found myself watching him warm up about 30 yards from Bryce Harper, ships passing in the night.
Besides the red jersey, Ollie looked just as I remembered him. It was like when you run into a long-lost friend you havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seen for a while; thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s that moment where you instinctively take inventory to see what, if anything, has changed.
I noticed that every sixth or seventh warmup toss would glance off his glove. Ollie would run after it, pick it up from wherever it landed, and start playing catch again from wherever he ended up. I was told later this is something he does by design to get some running in at the same time he does his long-toss. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure if thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s legitimate, but Ollie has always had his quirks.
Though to me, it pretty much just looked like a guy chasing after a baseball.
As I stood under the stars a day after my 32nd birthday last week in Pittsburgh, watching A Perfect Circle in the shadow of Heinz Field and the Allegheny Mountains, it was almost an out of body experience.
I found myself very in touch with the music, which has meant much to me over the years, dating back to college. But more than that, I was taken back 10 years to a day experienced by an iteration of me that seems like someone else at this point.
And to think, I heard some people complain about the set list.
I watched Bryce Harper go through the motions last Friday night, his attention to detail and serious countenance connoting a longtime veteran of the sport.
I listened as the 18-year-old Harper, sporting a ridiculous mustache, crafted a respectful and droll media presence, relaying with an underlying trace of irony to a group of reporters that he was Ã¢â‚¬Å“trying to get better every dayÃ¢â‚¬Â — repeating that four times in the course of a minute.
A little later, I was down in the tunnel talking baseball with Hagerstown hitting coach Marlon Anderson when I heard a bit of commotion coming from the visitorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ clubhouse. I looked over as a shirtless and smirking Bryce Harper emerged from the clubhouse, pointed at a teammate and hollered, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Better be careful, or that bagÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gonna be gone when you get back.Ã¢â‚¬Â
This was the Bryce Harper IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d been waiting to see all night.
The Nationals were one minute and 17 seconds away from disaster on signing deadline night. But right before the witching hour, they signed Stephen Strasburg, who weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to dub Ã¢â‚¬Å“The SaviorÃ¢â‚¬Â around these parts.
And you know what? Suddenly, the prospects for one of the biggest laughing-stock franchises in sports arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t looking that bad anymore. And it all starts with Strasburg. I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seen much of him, but from what I have seen during the Olympics and his senior year at San Diego State, he has a nasty hook and has a 100-mph burner.
Not only that, but Strasburg has the It Factor. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not the household name that a LeBron or Sid the Kid is Ã¢â‚¬â€œ he logically should be, which warrants future investigation of baseballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s marketing tendencies on this site, so keep your eyes peeled Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but fans of the sport know exactly who he is.
Nobody is ever content to just enjoy what they have in sports. It’s always about finding what’s “next.” ESPN has a whole magazine devoted to this every year. Everyone searched for the “Next Jordan” for years and years, until LeBron James came along. Then it almost immediately became about finding the “Next LeBron.”
Of course, other sports had to have LeBrons of their own.Ã‚Â So this year we have Stephen Strasburg, the San Diego State and Team USA mound phenom who was the first pick in this year’s baseball draft. Never mind that Scott Boras is extorting the Nationals for $50 million (!), the team apparently hasn’t even communicated with Strasburg, and no young pitcher is ever even close to a sure bet.
Then we get Sports Illustrated’s cover story on Bryce Harper, some 16-year-old catcher out in Vegas who apparently is like a baseball version of Paul Bunyan. He hits 600-foot homers, throws 96 on the gun, does volunteer work and gets good grades. He sounds like me in high school, except for, well, pretty much all that stuff. We’ll see how it goes.