It was always him and his dad. That’s how Bryce Harper remembers it. He would wait for Ron Harper to come home from his shift as an ironworker, a 5-year-old bundle of energy pleading for a pitcher. Out they would head, either into the family garage or to one of the dusty Las Vegas diamonds near their home. “I’d just swing and try to hit the ball as hard as I could,” the son recalled.

One day when Bryce was 10, another of the batting sessions he never tired of had just ended. He turned to his father and told him if he ever made the Home Run Derby, he wanted him to pitch.

After Bryce popped up his last pitch of the first round, he met his dad in the field and hugged him. The final result seemed not to matter so much anymore, but both Harper men had come to win — “that’s my big thing,” Ron had said. They almost did.

Harper advanced to the final round of the Home Run Derby and, with eight homers, applied pressure on Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics. Cespedes responded, launching his ninth home run after only five of his 10 outs had expired. He flipped his bat before his homer had landed on the other side of a Chevy pickup beyond the center field fence.

“What a great competitor he is,” Harper said. “I can’t wait until I’m 23.”

Harper may not have won, but he outlasted Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Chris Davis and three other top sluggers. Like Cano, he got to hit pitches thrown by his dad.