WASHINGTON – The last ball cleared the center field wall, and the sellout crowd roared. Bryce Harper threw his bat in the air, thrust both index fingers skyward and yelled with delight as streamers rained upon the crowd of 43,698.
That it was merely the All-Star Home Run Derby mattered not to Harper or the Washington Nationals fans, who were thrilled for their hometown hero Monday.
Harper rallied in the final round, connecting on pitches from his father to beat Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs 19-18.
Harper hit the contest-winning blast in extra time, the reward for hitting two homers at least 440 feet during the four minutes of regulation. After his game-winner, the Nationals star immediately went into celebration mode.
"We have some of the best fans in all of baseball, and to be able to that with my family out there, that's an incredible moment, not only for me but for the organization and the Nationals fans," Harper said.
Harper's teammate, Max Scherzer, the NL starter on Tuesday night, also appreciated the moment.
"It's awesome. Hometown," Scherzer said. "The crowd is behind him. He found some rhythm, kept it simple and just continued to hit home run after home run."
Wearing a headband that resembled the District of Columbia flag and displaying a right sleeve with stars and stripes, Harper trailed 18-9 with 1:20 left before rallying. He homered on nine of his last 10 swings before entering extra time.
The six-time All-Star arranged to have his dad, Ron, pitch to him in the annual contest on the eve of the All-Star Game. That made the victory even sweeter.
"I'm only as good as my BP guy," Harper said with a grin.
Hours before the session, Harper spoke excitedly about having his dad pitch to him in the contest. The 25-year-old said his father "worked his tail off every single day to provide for me and my family" and "now being able to have him throw to me in a big league ballpark is the cherry on top."
Afterward, Ron Harper said of his son: "He did great. So I'm really proud of him. He's a great kid. You couldn't ask for anything better."