After hitting his first big league homer in Monday night's game against the Padres, it wasn't just the fans and the media taking note of 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper. Santa Claus himself was watching the game live via satellite from his North Pole candy fortress, stroking his beard approvingly as the Nats rookie swiftly trotted around the bases.
Claus has been following Harper's controversial antics closely over the last two years, but only recently has he begun taking a liking to the young outfielder.
"To be honest, I didn't think I'd ever take the kid's name off the Naughty List," said Claus between two huge gulps of milk. "But here we are."
Harper might have earned some brownie points when he emerged from the dugout for a curtain call and pointed a northward, a thoughtful acknowledgment of the fat man in red.
"As much as I want to credit myself for my success, it was Santa who gave me my first bat when I was four," said Harper in an interview after the game. "When I got coal in my stocking this year, I realized how foolish I'd been acting."
"It was time for me to be a big boy," Harper added.
According to North Pole records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Harper is one of only three big leaguers who still believe in Santa, meaning only he, Nyjer Morgan, and Nick Swisher are still eligible to receive presents on Christmas. Analysts estimate that if Harper wants to cement his spot on the Nice List, he'll need to finish the season batting .250, minimum, with ten home runs and zero conduct-related suspensions.
"I have high hopes for this young man," said Claus over a loud lashing sound as he disciplined an elf. "And though it's true that I see him when he's sleeping and when he's awake, I'd be willing to close my eyes for a second if he wants to give Cole Hamels a swift kick between the legs."