Bryce Harper stood at his locker, his back to the solemn Washington Nationals clubhouse. Teammates stopped for a hug, and the 19-year-old paused from packing up his belongings to oblige. One by one, they stopped to congratulate the teenager who helped lift the Nationals to their first playoff berth and won over his teammates with his non-stop fire. One of the most remarkable seasons for a rookie professional baseball players had come to an abrupt, heartbreaking halt at 12:30 a.m. Saturday with a 9-7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

"I'm pretty upset we lost," said Harper, a large throng of cameras encircling him as he spoke. "It's not how I wanted my year to end, definitely. I wanted to play deeper into the postseason, not ready to go home, don't want to take off that uniform. That's just something that happens every day, that happened. You've got to come back next year and not let it happen."

There were many memorable story lines to the this magical Nationals season, Harper chief among them. Harper was called up from Class AAA Syracuse and shipped to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers on April 28 out of need. The Nationals offense was in tatters, with Ryan Zimmerman heading to the disabled list the same day. The Nationals didn't want to rush their prized 2010 first overall pick to the majors and stunt his development. He was hitting .243 at Syracuse with only one home run in 21 games. If he struggled, there was a possibility he would return to the minors.

Harper erased that notion instantly. His aggressive, run-until-I'm-tagged-out style of play provided a spark. He stole home in his eighth game. By his 40th game, he was hitting .307 and was perhaps the Nationals' best player at the time. He became the youngest position player to ever be selected to the All-Star Game.

And at times, he was, not necessarily a fault of his own, at the center of the action. Philadelphia's Cole Hamels plunked him with a pitch, his way of introducing him to the majors. He drew the ire of Miami Manager Ozzie Guillen for the amount of pine tar on his bat. He was at the plate when Chicago's Lendy Castillo threw too far inside and cleared the benches for the second time that game. Throughout it all, Harper, who once had the reputation for being too cocky, said all the right things. He was guided by his teammates — Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel, who protected him and admired him as he matured before their eyes.