ESPN analyst, ex-Nats GM Bowden on team, phenom Bryce Harper

On March 30, 2008, Jim Bowden was the general manager of the Washington Nationals, preparing for the grand opening of Nationals Park on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

Fast forward four years, and Bowden is working as a senior baseball analyst for ESPN.com, covering the Nationals’ first appearance on Sunday Night Baseball since that memorable day.

In 2008, Bowden was tracking a 15-year old kid named Bryce Harper.

Tonight, the now 19-year old phenom outfielder for the Nats will make his national television debut in only his eighth Major League game when the Nationals play host to the Philadelphia Phillies at 8 ET on ESPN.

Baseball’s biggest prospect meets “baseball’s biggest stage.”

In the video above, Bowden gives you the scouting report on Jordan Zimmerman, the Nationals’ scheduled starting pitcher tonight.

Front Row had the opportunity to chat with Bowden about his Sunday Night Baseball memories from 2008 and his thoughts on Harper.

What are your memories of the last Washington Nationals appearance on Sunday Night Baseball and the grand opening of Nationals Park?
It was very magical. I remember flying into Washington D.C. the night before and instead of taking the team bus to the hotel, we went directly to the stadium. We did that so the front office and the players could be together and see it for the first time. I remember being on the field just looking up and thinking ‘this is gorgeous.’ Then, to win 3-2 with a 9th inning, walk-off home run by Ryan Zimmerman, it was just incredible.

Did it feel like the future was bright for the Nationals?
It was a special time. Bryce Harper was a couple years away, but even then another cornerstone of the team, Ryan Zimmerman, had emerged. It was so appropriate that Zimmerman hit the walk-off home run in the last Nationals’ Sunday Night game.

When you learned the game would be nationally televised on ESPN, does that add to the excitement?
We all knew the grand opening would be on ESPN and that the entire world would be watching. When you’re on ESPN and Sunday Night Baseball, the excitement level is heightened. It was a special moment. The atmosphere was amazing. I had my entire family and all my friends in the box.

Were you aware of Harper then?
The Washington Nationals organization had heard of Bryce Harper when he was 14 years old. Then, once he was the Sports Illustrated cover for June 2008, everyone knew him.

Did you ever expect Harper to be a member of the Washington Nationals and on top of that, for his first nationally televised game be the Nationals’ return to Sunday Night Baseball?
It’s amazing when you think about it. Four years ago we’re on ESPN opening this beautiful park and somewhere Bryce Harper is emerging as a well-known prospect. Now, the entire world is aware of the name Bryce Harper.