At age 19, Valentine was promoted to the majors, where he played shortstop for the Dodgers in 1969. As a result of the early opportunity, the Red Sox skipper can fairly identify with Nationals star Bryce Harper's rapid ascension to the majors.
Even so, Valentine ultimately recognized that Harper, an outfielder, has already surpassed his skills at 19.
"I was in uniform when I was 19," Valentine said. "Much different. I was a token September call-up at 19 and pinch ran a couple of times. I was nowhere near ready to play in the major leagues. And [Harper's] doing more than holding his own.
"He does play very aggressively. He'll run out of the box, our outfielders know he'll try to challenge you. He dives in the outfield. He throws all the way to the base when he throws the ball. He's an interesting young man. And they say he's 19. It's incredible."
Through 53 games, Harper, the first overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, has lived up to the billing. In 134 at-bats with the Nationals, the phenom has crushed five home runs and 14 RBIs while batting .276.
Before Friday's series opener, Will Middlebrooks said he too was impressed with Harper, his teammate during last year's Arizona Fall League. At 19, the Red Sox third baseman was merely scratching the surface of pro ball in Single-A. Meanwhile, at the very same age, Harper is establishing himself in the big leagues.
But in addition to Harper, the Nationals are also building around another rising star in pitcher Stephen Strasburg. The 23-year-old –– who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 –– has stifled hitters this year, going 6-1 with a 2.35 ERA to go with 79 strikeouts.
"He's like looking at a rainbow –– you don't miss it," Valentine said. "It's a rather beautiful sight, he gets that pitching thing very well."
Now, the Red Sox will have front row seats to witness two of baseball's budding stars.
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