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Nationals Report: Pitch and catch with ....

Date published: 8/10/2006

He wore nine different uniforms in the minors during a career spanning 10 seasons and 653 games, but last week, Brandon Harper's 10th jersey came with the Washington Nationals. And yesterday, the 30-year-old catcher made his major league debut against the Florida Marlins. Before he got his first taste of the big leagues, Harper took time to speak to The Free Lance-Star about the long road to the show.

Was there ever a point in 10 years that you considered giving it up?

I had a few low points, but just the injuries I had were tough. I missed a whole season [in 2002] and I missed parts of three seasons other times. Obviously when you are going through that and not getting to play that's a low point. There have been times I thought I was going to hang it up as well but I just kept going and it finally paid off.

Being in the minors for 10 years, you've got to have some funny stories.

I think about my first day in pro ball. I fly up to Utica, N.Y. For some reason I didn't have any cash on me. My luggage gets lost. I didn't have anybody to pick me up at the airport. Just thinking that was my very first day and now, here I am in my first day in the big leagues and how far I've come. I've grown up and everything.

You were a fourth-round pick in 1996 by the Marlins. Did you think it would take this long?

I think the injuries hit me at the wrong time but I was the Marlins' top catching prospect and I had one full season and the next year I got hurt so I was always trying to play catch-up. I think injuries definitely set me back but I wasn't the player I needed to be to make it to this level. I have learned a lot along the way, especially the last three years I think I have grown mentally more than anything as far as the game.

What kept you going through the injuries and long bus rides in the minors?

In my mind even when I was struggling, when I was terrible, I honestly thought I could catch in the big leagues. Being around three or four big league spring trainings and seeing the guys that made it, to me I thought, 'I can do that job, too.' I am not saying I could be a starter every day but I can definitely in my mind be an adequate big league backup.

How tough was it to make it through 10 years as a minor leaguer?

I have worked at sporting goods stores, valet parked, did substitute teaching. I have done a few different things to obviously supplement the income in the offseason. Anything I could do to stay in the game.