Las Vegas natives Bryant, Harper watch shooting tragedy unfold from afar

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WASHINGTON D.C. – On Thursday, he showed his pride from top to bottom at Nationals Park.

Bryce Harper walked onto the field for his workout on Thursday before the National League Division Series opener against the Cubs on Thursday wearing a #VegasStrong sweatshirt. Not long after the workout, he made sure to show off his Vegas-themed cleans on Twitter.

This is not a surprise for a player who has often expressed his allegiance to his hometown of Las Vegas – especially during one of the most difficult times in the history of the city.

On Sunday night gunman Stephen Paddock fired on a crowd of concert-goers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 58 people and injuring over 500. The tragedy has stirred emotions across the country and especially for those who have a personal tie to Las Vegas, like Harper.

“It’s been pretty surreal,” said Harper of watching the coverage of the shooting the past week. “Talking to friends, talking to family that were definitely at the concert, seeing the things that have happened, transpired from that.”

Friend and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is in the same boat. Also a native of Las Vegas, he’s had to balance his emotions from the tragedy in his hometown while preparing for the start of the NLDS against Harper’s Nationals on Friday.

“It’s been tough,” admitted Bryant before the Cubs’ workout on Thursday in Washington D.C., telling reporters that he’s talked with Harper about the shootings.  “You play baseball for a living but there’s way more important things to it. We’re definitely doing all we can to help. This offseason I know, help, do all I can.”

What has impressed both of the players, however, is the support that’s been given to the victims and the city itself. Many from inside Las Vegas and around the countries have sent their sympathies and made contributions in the aftermath of the shooting, which has resonated with two of the city’s professional star athletes.

“It’s been touching to see the community come together like that. The response from everybody. People want to help,” said Harper. “They have way too much blood being donated which is unbelievable just to see how many people can come together when we need it.”

Harper had similar sentiments in the home locker room at Nationals Park, choosing to look at those who helped his hometown as much as the one who hurt it.

“It just goes to show how strong our community is in Vegas, how much of a small-knit community it can be. Everybody pulling together and providing. If anybody needs any help, everybody is pulling on the same ‘rope train’ to help anybody you can,” said Harper. “Definitely an unbelievable thing that happened and you never want that to happen to anybody across the world or anything like that.

“For it to happen to your hometown definitely hits home.”

Even as they get ready to hit for the first time this postseason, their minds are 3,000 miles to the West.

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