For the first time in his five-year career, Bryce Harper will be a reigning MVP come Opening Day. The Nationals outfielder is 23, but the baseball world has been expecting this since Harper was in his mid-teens. Harper chats with ThePostGame about hanging with famous people, meeting Stephen Curry, clown questions, Chia Pets and playing Little League with Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo, on behalf of Topps.
ThePostGame: What types of cards did you try to collect as a kid?
BRYCE HARPER: I had so many big shoeboxes of Topps cards. The ones that stand out were the guys like Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey, Jr., Chipper Jones. My dad actually gave me some of his from when he was younger. He had the Big Red Machine and all the old Yankee guys, the Expos. I was definitely a kid that loved cards, loved collecting them, loved talking to my friends about them.
TPG: There's been a trend to jersey cards and autographed cards. Is that something you were interested in growing up?
HARPER: The ones now, I love. Being able to see all the cards I've been on with my jerseys or pieces of my batting gloves or pieces of my bat or the thread of a ball, they're very cool. I see all these cards when people line up before a game on the first or third base side, I see all these cards I've never seen. I'm like, "Oh my God, those are really cool." It's very good for fan interaction with the players.
TPG: You grew up in Las Vegas. Did kids gamble with cards or am I going to get someone in trouble?
HARPER: (Laughs) No. We never did that. We did trade cards. I'd always go into the local store, get Topps cards and a Slurpee, sit on the curb and rip 'em open. It's always fun to be able to tell those little stories. That was only a couple years ago because I'm 23, but that was always a lot of fun.
TPG: Yes, you are 23, but winning the MVP last year felt like a long time coming. Does it feel like you checked a box and can move on now knowing you'll always be an MVP?
HARPER: Looking back on last year, you can never be satisfied with what you do. It's definitely a blessing to be an MVP. You always look forward to multiple MVPs, but you don't play for personal accolades. You play for the World Series and rings and things like that. That's what you're usually remembered for. Going forward, that's all I want to do. I want to help my team win and help my organization and the fans of D.C. get that. We have such a great group of guys and I can't wait for this year.
TPG: In terms of MVPs, you hung out with one at the Super Bowl. Had you met Stephen Curry before the Super Bowl?
HARPER: I hadn't. His craft is unbelievable. He's a player that you stop and watch. If he's playing on ESPN or his highlights are on, you want to stop and see what he does. He's definitely something special and he's a great person too, and that's something big. Being able to see him, being able to be around Abby Wambach, as well, I'm a big soccer fan, it was fun to go to a Super Bowl like that and see celebrities and people.
TPG: When you met Steph, were you more star-struck to meet him or was he more star-struck to meet you?
HARPER: I don't know. I think being an athlete, it's kind of mutual, where you're not really star-struck, but having that common bond of being an athlete. But being able to meet Abby was really cool. I met her last year, met Peyton Manning last year, so these are people I grew up watching ... Michael Jordan over there on the couch with Derek Jeter, Mia Hamm, Nomar [Garciaparra]. When you walk in a room like that, it's something special. It's incredible. Seeing that, you kind of get a little star-struck and hesitant, but everyone's just hanging out and talking like normal people. You got to just go about it a normal way and have some fun.
TPG: All these people were in the same room at the Super Bowl?
HARPER: Everyone was. We all were last year. It was Mia Hamm, Peyton Manning, Eli [Manning], Archie [Manning], MJ, Jeter, Usain Bolt, I could go on and on with how many people were in that same room that night. It was just incredible.
TPG: What is the most common misconception of Bryce Harper?
HARPER: Oh, man. (Laughs) I don't know. I play the game really hard, so maybe they think I'm like that off the field, as well. I think that's one thing people look at and think I'm such a rude person on the field, maybe I'm a rude person off the field. I'm not. I'm just like an everyday person. I try to respect everybody I come in contact with, have fun with my family, enjoy my friends and do everything I can to have a good life. You want to have fun in life and enjoy the game you play, but baseball isn't all of it. Baseball and sports are what we are, but it's not the whole thing. It's what we do for a living and everything else is just us.
Thank you to @gatorade for an amazing time once again at the SuperBowl! Gotta say this was one of my favorite moments..As an athlete you respect the craft of other players, professionals! and this guy does it right every single day. It was a pleasure meeting the NBA MVP and fellow @underarmour athlete @stephencurry30! #Goat
TPG: What would you tell your rookie self about all this five years ago?
HARPER: Enjoy the meals in the big leagues because you might not get them ever again. No, I mean, just having fun, enjoying the game and try to stay even keel. When you're 19 years old, in the big leagues, you're supposed to still be in college. That's the scary thing because sometimes you aren't able to do the things you can on a daily basis, going 4-for-4 with three homers or things you did like that in college. Sometimes, you're going to struggle and it's part of the game. You live and you learn and try to do everything you can to help your team win on a daily basis, but stay even keel. It doesn't matter if you're 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, it's part of the game. You're able to wake up the next morning and play the game you love. That's the biggest thing.
TPG: Speaking of rookies, Kris Bryant won Rookie of the Year. I talked to him earlier this year about you guys playing Little League together…
HARPER: Yeah, we played travel ball together.
TPG: How scary was that 3-4 punch? Why did pitchers even show up at the park?
HARPER: (Laughs) Well, it was me, him and Joey Gallo. It's pretty incredible. Kris was an incredible ballplayer, Joey, as well. They both are at the big league level. It was just a lot of fun. We always wanted to play in the big leagues, but we never looked forward to leaving that area (Las Vegas). We were very excited about being on the same team when we were younger. I'm always rooting for Kris. I'm always rooting for Gallo to be the best players they can.
TPG: What were Kris and Joey like as kids?
HARPER: They were the same. Kris is the exact same way -- very quiet, silk with everything he does, very smooth hitting homers. Joey, he had more pop than anyone I ever knew. He can still do what he does. He's always a lot of fun. Me and him hang out a lot still. He's a jokester.
TPG: You have a Chia Pet coming out this year. Did they ask you about that or did they just do it?
HARPER: (Laughs) No, they didn't ask me because I would have shot it down.
TPG: When did you find out?
HARPER: About two interviews ago (this interview took place in February). I'm more excited about the bobblehead coming out this year. It's a commemorative MVP one, so I'm very excited about that. The Chia Pet, I'm not looking forward to it. I don't even know what's going on with that. We'll see what happens.
TPG: We were talking about attitude on the field earlier. Cam Newton, another MVP, is under fire for the way he reacted in his press conference after the Super Bowl. As a fellow athlete, you watch that and how do you feel about the way he carried himself and if he was right or wrong?
HARPER: Cam's a great player and everybody knows that. The guy's an MVP. He's just something special. You live and you learn. It's part of the game. It's part of the way you play and how you go about it. He's got a long, whole career ahead of him. I'm looking forward to seeing him play for the next 20 years of his career. He's very special. It's a lot of fun to watch. You live and you learn. That's part of the game.
TPG: For my reporter brethren, what is the definition of a clown question?
HARPER: (Laughs) What you just asked. (More laughs) There you go.
TPG: So, me asking, "What is a clown question" is a clown question?
HARPER: There you go. (Laughs)
TPG: Note taken.
TPG: Dusty, is he excited to coach you?
HARPER: Yes, very excited. I'm excited to play for him. Being able to play for a manager like that, his All-Star staff, we're definitely happy to have Davey Lopes and Mike Maddux and all the guys we have on staff. It's going to be a lot of fun.
TPG: Spring Training, what's the first thing that comes to your mind?
HARPER: Just being part of the guys. Just being able to hang out and seeing everyone for the first time in three to four months. And I'm excited to see J-Dubs' (Jayson Werth) beard and long hair.
TPG: He had the Chia Pet last year.
HARPER: That's right.
TPG: Enjoy the rest of your day. Hopefully, limited clown questions are ahead.
HARPER: Hah, I appreciate it.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.