LOS ANGELES - The Internet keeps track of nearly everything a baseball writer needs these days, so I rarely save my scorecards anymore, but after a memorable trip to Southern California last week, I returned with two keepers.
The trip started last Saturday with an early-morning flight to LAX. I was on my way to cover the Twins in Anaheim and left early to interview Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, one of the players the Twins are considering for the No. 2 pick in next month's draft.
Stanford was playing at UCLA, so that was convenient, but on the flight, I realized there would be an added bonus. Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, Bryce Harper would be making his major league debut for Washington.
Harper, 19, was the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, and pitching that night for Washington was Stephen Strasburg, the first pick from 2009.
After interviewing Appel, a talented righthander we'll be profiling later this month, I sped up the freeway to Chavez Ravine, where a sellout crowd of 54,000 gathered to watch the two teams with the best records in the National League.
Strasburg was magnificent, and Harper might be the most captivating player I've seen since Kirby Puckett. You can't take your eyes off him. He swings viciously and aggressively, like a lefthanded version of Puckett. He runs fast and furiously, like Pete Rose. And he throws like Vladimir Guerrero in his prime.
The Dodgers and Nationals were tied 1-1 in the ninth inning, when both teams scored two runs. I wondered, "How can this get any better?" Then Matt Kemp hit a walk-off home run. As he circled the bases, fans chanted "M-V-P! M-V-P!" That election is five months away, but his constituency has spoken.
Two nights later, with the Twins at Angel Stadium, I got to see the player that MLB.com had ranked as the game's No. 1 prospect this year, one spot ahead of Harper.
Mike Trout, 20, reached the majors last year and was batting .403 for Class AAA Salt Lake when the Angels brought him back to the big leagues last weekend. They grabbed him with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2009 draft, three spots after the Twins took Kyle Gibson.
Trout is considered a five-tool center fielder, but what really stands out is his speed. When he bunted for a hit Tuesday, Angels third base coach Dino Ebel clocked his time to first base at 3.53 seconds, saying it's the fastest he'd seen for a righthanded hitter.
Trout impressed me, but not nearly as much as Harper. After watching his debut, I knew that was a scorecard I had to save. The other keeper, of course, came Wednesday night, when Jered Weaver threw his no-hitter against the Twins.
I hadn't covered a no-hitter at any level before Francisco Liriano pitched his no-no in Chicago on May 3, 2011. A few weeks later, the Hall of Fame asked local beat writers if anyone wanted to donate their scorecard from that game to display in Cooperstown.
Foolishly, I'd thrown mine away. That's a mistake I won't make again.