For the kid digging into the Dodger Stadium batter's box, it was the first game of his career. For the broadcaster in the booth, somewhere upward of the 9,000th. At home, the kid said, he still has a recording of that call.
"That's a great name for a novelist, or a character," Vin Scully crooned. " 'Bryce Harper.' Mmm-mmm."
On Wednesday, four years later, the Washington Nationals' Harper sat in the visitors' clubhouse again. Barring a postseason meeting, it would be the last time Harper, the National League's young jewel, and Scully, the Dodgers' legendary broadcaster, would share a stadium.
"Him being able to call my first game?" Harper said, leaning forward in his chair. "I'll never forget that."
Harper can still recall the details: Scully explaining the provenance of the player's uniform number, 34 (Harper, a big Mickey Mantle fan, found No. 7 taken, so he chose two digits that equaled seven); Scully talking about Harper's parents, a paralegal and a steelworker.
As a kid in Las Vegas, Harper sometimes trekked to Los Angeles to see a Dodgers game or listen to Scully. He remembers Scully advising, on air, that smiling and laughing are the key to a good life. He's tried to follow that. In the past, he has tried to imitate his favorite calls. (He declined to try on Wednesday, explaining that his imitation is not the best.)
But he has met Scully only in a few passing encounters.
So, before Wednesday's game, he and Nationals Manager Dusty Baker visited the broadcast booth for a longer conversation. He said they talked about life and baseball.
"Bryce reminded me the first time I met Vin," Baker said. "I could see the gleam in Bryce's eyes."
Said Harper: "I just wanted say hi to him and tell him goodbye."
The Dodgers have not announced a starter for their game Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Do they pitch the top four starters on regular rest, or give Kenta Maeda, who pitched on longer rest in Japan, an extra day?
Maeda says he would be ready.
"A shorter rest period is something that everybody here is used to, so I'm on that same boat," Maeda said. "So far, it actually hasn't given me too much trouble. And you get to pitch more, so that's better."
Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said, "We're still trying to figure out what direction we want to go."
Second baseman Chase Utley scored his 1,000th career run in the first inning Wednesday. He is the 13th active player to reach that mark. … Brandon McCarthy made a rehab start with triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday. He threw 61 pitches in 3 2/3 innings, giving up three hits and one run with two walks and four strikeouts. … The Dodgers claimed right-handed reliever Layne Somsen from the New York Yankees, replacing the 40-man roster spot vacated by Chin-Hui Tsao, who was sent to the 60-day disabled list with a right triceps strain.