Young meets old as Harper hits Fenway

BOSTON -- During the 100th anniversary season of Fenway Park, the schedule makers were kind enough to send in two of the brightest young stars baseball has seen in some time.

In addition to Washington Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, who starts against the Red Sox on Friday, 19-year-old Bryce Harper will patrol center field and bat second for the Nats.

Harper, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 MLB draft, was recalled from Triple-A on April 28 and has made an immediate impact. Five tools? Harper seems to have an entire tool belt, playing at break-neck speed in the field and on the bases, while hitting .276 with 5 home runs and 14 RBIs.

While the attention of many teen-agers, particularly at this time of year, is anywhere but a history lesson, the moment of playing at Fenway is not lost on Harper.

"It's exciting to be here and to play here with the history and whatnot," he said. "It's very cool to come in here and play. I'm excited to see the fan base, I know they have great fans here.

"It's going to be fun to step into the same batter's box as Ted Williams did. It will be a great experience."

While in town, Harper will have a chance to catch up with Red Sox rookie Will Middlebrooks, who hasn't had the spectacle of Harper but has made a significant impact all the same. The two met up in the Arizona Fall League and hit it off pretty well, Harper said.

"He's an amazing talent," Harper said of Middlebrooks. "To see him make it up here pretty much the same week I did was pretty cool. It's a great experience. I texted him immediately to say congrats and keep it going.

"He's going to have a lot of fun playing here over the next couple of years. He absolutely can hit the cover off the ball so it's going to be fun to watch him play."

Middlebrooks, who said the two hope to have dinner together Saturday night, says he texts Harper every week or so "when I see on SportsCenter that he had a good game."

This is Harper's second visit to Fenway. He said he stopped by when he was 11 or 12 during a visit to Cooperstown to play in a tournament.

"It was great coming in here at that age and looking at the Monster thing and it's a hundred feet tall. It's very cool to now come in here and play in a place with all that history."

Asked if this visit brought back memories of his trip from his Little League days, Harper joked, "Well, that was only a couple of years ago."

Thing is, he's not too far off.