MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Harper earns All-Star start with most NL votes

Nats outfielder headed to third Midsummer Classic

Harper earns All-Star start with most NL votes

WASHINGTON -- After dominating the headlines in the first half of the 2015 season, Bryce Harper is taking his show to one of baseball's grandest stages. Harper has been voted into the 2015 All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile as a starter by the fans, marking his third All-Star appearance and his second as a starter. He garnered more votes (13,864,950) than any other National League player.

"I'm definitely excited," Harper said after the Nationals defeated the Giants, 3-1, on Sunday night. "Being able to play alongside some of the best in baseball at the All-Star Game, hang out and just have a good time with everybody, it's definitely exciting. I'm very happy and very blessed to be part of it. I have to thank our fans and all the fans across the country who voted for me. Thanks for all the support."

Harper, still three months shy of his 23rd birthday, had a first half for the ages -- to the point where he has been called "The Natural." He is among the league leaders in almost every offensive category, including home runs (25), RBIs (60), batting average (.344) and on-base percentage (.470).

In fact, according to ESPN Stats and Info, Harper is the seventh player -- joining Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Bench, Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Mathews, Joe DiMaggio and Mel Ott -- with 25 or more home runs halfway through the season at age 22 or younger. Five of those players are Hall of Famers.

Harper's best month was in May. Never mind "The Natural," he was Gigantor in the batter's box, hitting .360 with 13 home runs, 28 RBIs and a .495 on-base percentage. No wonder he was named the National League Player of the Month.

His best game that month was May 6. Three homers in one game is quite a feat, but if you're the youngest to do it in 45 years, that's another notch on your belt that few can call their own.

Harper puts on power display

Harper credits his teammates and manager Matt Williams for his success on the diamond.

"I have a great group of guys around me," Harper said. "They come in, have fun. They do the things we need to do as a group, as a family that we are. A lot of credit goes to them.

"I give credit to Skipper. He is there for me every single day. If I need something on a pitcher or not feeling right, he tries to keep me staying calm. A lot of credit to Ian Desmond. He is one of the guys that keeps me even keel every single day."

Harper bolstered his already impressive resume by tallying his first career three-homer game in that May 6 contest, a 7-5 win over the Marlins. He became the youngest player (at 22 years, 202 days) to accomplish the feat since Joe Lahoud (22 years, 53 days) on June 11, 1969.

Harper said Monday that he will not participate in the 2015 Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders next Monday.

Harper declines invitation for Home Run Derby

Harper had wanted his father, Ron, to pitch to him like he did in 2013 at Citi Field. But Ron Harper is recovering from rotator cuff surgery, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Bryce also hasn't taken batting practice on the field since late May, and that was at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Harper's solo moonshot

Voting is open now at MLB.com to select the final player for each league's 34-man roster via the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote. Fans can cast their votes from a list of five players from each league until 4 p.m. ET on Friday.

And the voting doesn't end there. During the Midsummer Classic in Cincinnati on Tuesday, July 14, fans can once again visit MLB.com to submit their choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. Voting exclusively at MLB.com, online and via their mobile devices in the 2015 All-Star Game MVP Vote presented by Chevrolet, the fans' collective voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.

MLB.TV Premium subscribers will be able to live stream the All-Star Game via MLB.TV through FOX's participating video providers. Access will be available across more than 400 supported MLB.TV platforms, including the award-winning MLB.com At Bat app. MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities, including the 2015 Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders, part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day on Monday, July 13. The Derby will feature a new format with brackets and timed rounds and will be broadcast live by ESPN and MLB.com beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports (7 p.m. ET air time, 8:15 first pitch), in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.