Bryce Harper is on a roll for the Phillies, and is deeper into the playoffs than he has ever been. The bond between him and the city of Philadelphia continues to deepen.
When the Phillies upset the Atlanta Braves in the division series, Harper was making it past the divisional round of the playoffs for the first time. In seven years with the Washington Nationals, Harper played in four division series but never advanced.
When asked Saturday how it felt to make it to the NLCS, Harper, now in his fourth year in Philadelphia, fused his own joy with that of his current team. “As an organization, right?” he said. “We haven’t been here for a long time.”
Harper’s ability to connect with the Phillies and their fans has been so flawless that it could be used as a guide for future free agents. Philadelphia is a city known for riding its athletes when they do not perform well. For some players, it can be overwhelming.
Harper has had great success on the field. He was the N.L.’s MVP in 2021. His passion for the game and for playing in Philadelphia, has helped forge a bond between him and the city.
“No excuses, good or bad, they don’t care,” Harper said of the Philly fans. “They just want you to keep doing it. I love that mind-set. My dad used to say the same thing when I was growing up: ‘It don’t matter. Next day, next day, next day, keep going, keep going, enjoy it.’ And that’s how the city is.”
Bryce Harper Phillies jerseys were everywhere at the stadium and chants of “M.V.P.,” during the team’s two home playoff games last week. He had two home runs, three doubles and five runs batted in during the four-game series against Atlanta.
Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. He understands that one of the most important things to any fan here is a player’s loyalty to the city. Harper said when he signed here, that he wanted to be in Philadelphia long term, that is why he wanted a no-trade clause.
In his Phillies debut in 2019, Harper wore bright green Phillie Phanatic cleats, a tribute to the team’s lovable mascot, and he still sometimes wears a Phanatic headband and batting gloves. A longtime Dallas Cowboys football fan, he renounced that team in 2020 and publicly adopted the Philadelphia Eagles. Harper would bow to Phillies fans in right field after trotting out to his position. He is a showman and he feeds off the crowd. Harper understands the importance of energy and enjoys bringing it.
Harper plays with his hair on fire, with real passion and emotion. He embodies it, and teammates say it is authentic. “You guys hear him talk, you see the actions on the field,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “It’s real. If he goes 0-for-4 it doesn’t matter to him if the team wins. That’s something that all the guys can hang on to, and what you need in the clubhouse, especially this time of year.”
On Saturday, as the Phillies celebrated their victory over the Braves, the players hugged one another on the field, smiled for cameras and donned their commemorative shirts. Harper was in the middle of it all, and amid the euphoria, he began tapping teammates on the shoulder and gesturing outward, toward the stands, which were still packed with excited fans.
Following Harper’s lead, the players took off their caps and began waving to the fans in every corner of the stadium, a simple gesture, but one appreciated by the fans, who cheered even louder.
“I feel I’m hand in hand with them,” Harper said. “When you want to be in a city, when you want to be a factor in a city, that’s all they want to see. They just want you to play hard. That’s it.”
Bryce Harper is most perfect player for this city. He is the best Free Agent signing in history of Philadelphia sports.
The Philadelphia Phillies celebrating their win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of their division series. Bryce Harper made sure to acknowledge the fans at Citizens Bank Park. Photo courtsey of Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports, via Reuters