So: What Does Bryce Harper’s Hitting Coach DO?

Hadn’t visited with my friend Rick Eckstein since he worked with the kids on the anachronistically named Vermont Expos of the New York-Penn League in 2006. Tonight, as for all this year and in spring training of 2011,  Eckstein now works with Bryce Harper with the Washington Nationals.

Well what exactly can you DO with Bryce Harper?

“His swing gets a little big sometimes. I point that out to him,” Rick said with a smile, not long after Harper hit a seemingly low line drive that appeared to just clear the batting practice pitcher and then wound up around 440 feet away, and 30 feet up, on Shea Bridge in right-center here at CitiField. “He’s great about it. He constantly asks. He constantly wants to know if I’m seeing any little things he’s not.

“And of course I work with him with his prep for each night’s pitcher. Talking knuckle balls in advance of R.A. Dickey tonight, for instance,” added Eckstein, who is whipsaw smart and has a kind of directed version of his brother David’s frenetic energy. “But your implication is correct. I don’t have to fix a lot with him. And,” he interrupted himself with a chuckle, “obviously I don’t have to motivate him.”

There is, however, one fascinating component to The Care And Feeding Of Bryce Harper that figures to keep Eckstein busy, at least as long as the Nats continue to rank somewhere near their current fifth in NL team slugging and fourth in NL team OPS and he remains content to be their hitting guru: “People forget he’s still growing. I mean, he’s nineteen. He’s likely to grow another inch at least, and with that he’ll fill out and when he fills out he’ll add power. There will be adjustments to make.”

Which leaves Rick Eckstein trying to come to grasp with the intimidating realization that the 19-year old who has opened his career with 75 games of 9 homers, 29 RBI, and a .272/.343/.449 and as fast a pair of hands as anybody in the bigs is actually just the compact version of Bryce Harper.

9 Comments

I don’t think Rick Eckstein has too much to worry about except adjusting to Bryce Harper’s growth patterns. If Bryce keeps his outlook and motivation levels high, there will be a lot to look forward to in his playing. He’s definitely got talent and it’s seems all natural (a gift)? So I say to Rick, enjoy the ride, it’s going to be a wild one! It was nice to see you reunited with your friend and I really don’t care what color shorts you wear. Just as long as you are having the time of your life now. There will be plenty of time in the future for whatever path you choose. LYK

Bryce got handcuffed at bat by Dickey tonight — knuckleballers can do that to anyone — but he did get a key outfield assist to gun down Cedeno early on. As a long-suffering Washington fan, it’s going to be fun to watch Harper develop over the next few years…D.C. has never seen a position player with his upside. Love his approach to the game, too; Pete Reiser would have loved him.

Oh, I love the flashy cantaloupe shorts. You look cool and relaxed. It makes me happy that you’re not afraid of color. ;)

I like those britches, too. I agree that Mr. Harper will fill out and that will mean auto-power! He may not fill out as much as Elvis, but he’ll become a manly man. Hugs.

It’s great that Bryce constantly asks if he’s missing anything. It shows how determined he is to stay at the level he’s on and only get better. It will be exciting to see when Harper grows and fills out, should see a lot more extra base hits and homeruns.

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Thanks, Mary.

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