I'm going to play every single game like it's my last. I want people to be able to say that that kid played hard. —Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals outfielder
For anyone with baseball talent like that of Bryce Harper, the sky is the limit.
2012 was a banner year for Harper. He was selected as the NL Rookie of the Year and was the youngest position player in Major League Baseball history to be named to an All-Star game. Harper picked right up where he left off this year. His work ethic — an attribute for which Harper wants to be known — is demonstrated in the high level at which he plays.
"I'm going to play every single game like it's my last." Harper told CBSsports.com earlier this year, "I want people to be able to say that that kid played hard."
And so far, there is no doubt people are saying just that.
"Every time I watch him, it's all out," Hall of Famer Al Kaline told CBSsports, "How can you dislike someone like that?"
Harper is extremely aggressive when at bat and is capable of slamming any given pitch out of the park. He is currently tied for 3rd in the Major Leagues in Home Runs this season (nine), 26th in the major leagues for batting average (.312) and 22nd in the National League for runs batted in (18). (Source: ESPN)
Not only is Harper an offensive threat, but he is strong defensively as well. A left-fielder, Harper has a .962 fielding percentage; his speed gives him the ability to cover ground in a short amount of time.
"He's determined to be one of the best players in the history of the game," Houston Astros' manager Bo Porter told CBSsports, "The best guys have 'it,' and he has 'it.'"
It would seem that Harper is destined for greatness. Not only does Harper's commitment and high standard of play radiate on the baseball field, it is evident off the field as well.
Harper is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — also known as The Mormon Church — and with his membership comes a high level of commitment to his faith. Harper believes he can use his religion as a tool to influence others around him.
"I feel I can be a walking Book of Mormon and help people on the baseball field and off it," he said.
Harper's religion was first tested in his rookie year when, after a win, a reporter asked him if he had a favorite beer. "That's a clown question bro," Harper replied.
The video of his reply swept across the Internet, which kept many interested as to why it was a "clown question". It was soon discovered that the consumption of alcohol is against the tenets of the Mormon faith; for that reason, Harper abstains from drinking.
“I give everything I can every single day, and I don’t wanna go out, I don’t wanna party, I don’t wanna drink or anything like that," Harper told Larry Brown Sports. "So, when someone asks me a question that, I think it’s a little disrespectful and, you know, it was the first thing that came to my mind. Like I said, my body is a temple and I’m not going to put anything in it that will affect me or the way I play because I want to give everything I can for this team and this city every single day.”
Some wonder what effect Harper's religion has upon his game. Many consider religion a distraction from the sport. For Harper however, living his religion is top priority.
“I’d rather be a good person off the field, than a good baseball player on the field," Harper said.
Harper, however, is currently blessed to be both. For aspiring baseball players — or, for that matter, for those who are simply trying to be good people — Harper is among the best role models available. Everyone can respect his work ethic and dedication to his craft and his religion.
Stay tuned this season for more on the second-year phenom.
You can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at: @MitchKunzler