Thursday seemed like a good time to speak with Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who discussed several topics during a 20-minute-plus press conference.
One of those being Harpers progress in rehab: Dombrowski says Bryce is 'doing great' in rehab.
Bryce Harper is recovering well from Tommy John surgery. In fact, he might even be ahead of schedule.
“He’s doing great,” Dombrowski said.
Harper is taking dry swings at home in Las Vegas, meaning he is swinging a bat but not making contact with the baseball. The next progression is hitting off a practice tee, then building up until he is taking batting practice and ultimately facing live pitching. The Phillies still maintain their original timeline that the two-time National League MVP Award winner could be back by the All-Star break in July. But there is reason to think he might beat that timeline.
“You could say that he’s a little bit ahead, but oftentimes you say that about players and all of a sudden you have a setback,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “I’m just knocking on wood. We’re just going to make sure we’re careful with how we keep progressing with him. We’ve got a ways to go.” (T Zolecki - MLB.com - Feb 23, 2023)
|Birth City:||Las Vegas, NV|
|Draft:||Nationals #1-2010-Out of College of Southern Nevada|
At age 3, Bryce was playing T-ball against 6-year-olds, partly to be with his older brother, Bryan. And by the time Bryce was 9, travel teams from California to Colorado to Oklahoma were calling the Harpers and offering to put their son on a plane, lodge him in a hotel, and provide his meals so he could play for them in tournaments. A travel player for hire. He went, of course.
Most times either Ron or Sheri went with him, but sometimes, for work or monetary reasons, they could not go, so Bryce went alone. He has played between 80 and 130 baseball games a year each year for seven years, in more states than he can remember.
"People say, 'Weren't you deprived of your childhood?'" Bryce says. "No way. I would not take anything back at all. Everything about it was great. I got to go places, meet people, play baseball against older kids and better competition. I had a great time."
Bryce is a normal young man. He played football until 2008, and he loves to snowboard in the winter.
"We don't limit him in any way," his Mom, Shari said. "He loves to play baseball. He would come home after being away playing baseball all weekend, get off the plane and not an hour later be bored and say, 'Dad, let's go to the cage and hit.' I mean, he still sleeps with his bat. He'll get a new bat and go, 'Dad, isn't she a bee-yooty?'" (Tom Verducci-Sports Illustrated-6/08/09)
It was after one of those player-for-hire trips that Sheri began to understand that her son was really special. Bryce, then 12, was playing in a tournament in Alabama on a field with 250-foot fences. It was a trip Sheri could not attend. When Bryce phoned home, Sheri asked him how he'd done. "I did all right," he replied.
Later, one of the coaches called Sheri. "Did he say anything to you?" the coach asked.
"No, not really," Sheri said.
"He went 12 for 12. Eleven home runs and a double."
"That," Sheri says, "is when I knew." (Tom Verducci-Sports Illustrated-6/08/09)
Harper did volunteer work when he was in high school. And he had a 3.5 grade point average. He also attended religious education classes nearly every morning before school.
Bryce is an impact player with the skills, body and attitude—he says he models his game after those of Mickey Mantle and Pete Rose—perfectly suited for the sport.
He has always wanted to play baseball. And he has an enormous capacity for working at the game with dedication. When asked about his goals as a ballplayer, he replies with an unemotional certainty: "Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely. Play in Yankee Stadium. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can't wait."
His father, Ron, is a steelworker, while his mother, Sheri, is a paralegal.
In 2008, as part of USA Baseball's 16-U team in the Pan Am Championships in Mexico, Harper signed autographs for 45 minutes, until the wee hours of the morning, after pitching the 11th inning of a 3-1 win over Cuba. He batted .571 in the tournament, with four home runs in eight games, a 1.214 slugging average, a .676 on-base percentage and six stolen bases in six tries—all team highs among regular players—and was named MVP.
It was during an international home run hitting showcase in January that Harper, with a metal bat, walloped his 502-foot shot at the Trop, part of a run of six consecutive homers that averaged 469 feet. (The night before the competition, Babe Ruth's granddaughter displayed a commemorative bat to be awarded to the player who hit the longest home run. In his own version of a called shot, Harper told the Babe's kin, "I'm going to win that bat." And he did.)
Harper plays baseball with a viciousness, a seeming contempt for whoever and whatever dares get between him and victory. "I'm going to play against you the way Pete Rose did," he says. "I'm going to try to rip your head off. That's just the way I am. Old school. If I could play for a guy like Lou Piniella or Larry Bowa, I'd love it."
Before he hits, Harper lays his bat down in the batter's box, takes two steps toward the pitcher, bends over, scoops up dirt in his bare hands (batting gloves? Hah!), rubs it between his palms and then returns to grab his bat and take his place in the box. "He's got this thing for dirt," Sheri says. It looks like an act of defiance, a marking of territory—in this case, home plate—as his alone.
"I love the way people talk crap," Harper says. "I hear it all the time. Overrated. You suck. I'll just do something to shut them up, like, I'll show you. It's like in regular pregame work. I like to show off my arm. Just so it's like, There you go. Don't even think about trying to run."
"Bryce has a saying," his father Ron says. "Whenever people say how good he is, he likes to say, 'I'm not done yet. I still have work to do.' He's going to get a lot better, and I say that because of how hard he works. I don't think he'll ever rest on his laurels." (Tom Verducci-Sports Illustrated-6/08/09)
In 2009, Harper was Baseball America's High School Player of the Year as a sophomore. The magazine had never even picked a high school junior as their POY, much less a sophomore.
That season, Bryce hit .626 with a .723 on-base-percentage and a 1.339 slugging percentage in 115 at-bats, with 14 homers and 55 RBI.
Bryce chose to pursue his GED rather than go back to high school for his junior year in the fall of 2009. Yes, he skipped the last TWO years of high school and got into college so he could be drafted. And he maintained a 4.0 average in junior college.
Harper enrolled early at College of Southern Nevada. He promptly set a national junior college record with 31 home runs and led the Coyotes to a third-place finish at the Junior College World Series, all at the age of a high school junior.
CSN games became one of the hottest attractions in Las Vegas, a city with no shortage of entertainment options, with Harper in tow. The school, for its part, took advantage of the business opportunity.
“CSN’s prices went up,” Sokol said. “I’m dead serious. They started charging more money just to get in the ballgame and I think they made a killing. Bryce brought people to the ballpark.”
Outwardly, Harper reveled in the attention. He projected flash and confidence, earning a reputation in some circles as cocky and self-centered. Inwardly, the truth was very different.
“I think that was probably the most pressure I’ve ever felt in my life,” Harper said. “It definitely makes the game today a little bit easier, just knowing what I went through at that age. Understanding that it was kind of ‘You gotta be the No. 1 pick or it’s kind of a bust,’ you have nothing else really. You could go back to college, but there’s a lot of people around you counting on you to get to that level. That’s just how it was. I got through it.” (Kyle Glaser - Baseball America - Oct., 2022)
He gravitates to Nationals' veterans like Mark DeRosa, Jayson Werth, and Rick Ankiel. ("He deserves all the respect in the world for overcoming what he's overcome.")
The player Harper most enjoys being compared with is George Brett. (When told that, Brett said, "He had to be the only 17-year-old in this country who knows who I am.") When journalist Danny Knobler told Harper that he used to cover the Tigers, Harper wanted to know about Al Kaline, and astounded Knobler by knowing Kaline at age 20 in 1955 was the youngest batting champion.
Asked on MLB Network whom he'd like to meet if he could go back in time, Harper replied, "Jackie Robinson, not only because he was a Hall of Fame player, but because of all he went through." Harper talks about hoping to meet several players around the game if and when he makes it to Washington. One of them is veteran grinder Chase Utley.
For now, Harper plays off the role of being the brash kid. "It's unbelievable what people scream at him from the stands," says DeRosa. "One day, there was a man with his three kids yelling obscenities." It happened throughout the minors last year.
Just before the 2010 draft, Baseball America asked Harper what he missed about being in high school. "I have not missed one thing at all," he said. "I really haven't. I didn't really have any friends in high school because I was about baseball. That's all I was about. Everyone else, they were about partying and all that kind of stuff. I stayed away from all that. I was pretty much a home body. Go to school, go to baseball, go to the gym, and come home. And eat a great home-cooked meal. That was my day. Then Sundays, I'd go to church," Bryce said.
Bryce is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Morman. But he does not plan on doing a mission. "I think I can do what I can on the field to get people to look at me and say, 'He's LDS.' I can do a lot more things on the field. I probably could go out and say 'This is the right church,' but I can do that on the field and being a walking book of Mormon. Is it in my repertoire to go do a mission? Yes, but after my career and everything like that. When I'm older I'll go on a mission, but as of right now, no, not at this age," Harper told Baseball America.
Movie: Bull Durham
Musical Group: "I love Lil' Wayne, but I'm pretty much all about country. Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, and Big & Rich."
Dream Car: "1969 Chevelle SS. Or a Range Rover Sport, black on black. I love the '55 Belair. I love all the old-school cars," Bryce said.
Celebrity Crush: Megan Fox
Asked about his hobbies, Harper told Baseball America, "I love to go to the beach. I love going to Oklahoma. I love to snowboard. Going fishing. Hanging out with my pops. Me and him are best friends. Just going to the lake; hanging out, having a good time."
Harper's uniform number with the Nationals is #34—3 plus 4 equals 7. And the #7 was Mickey Mantle's number. And The Mick is Bryce's all-time favorite player.
- After signing with the Nationals, Harper chose to wear number 3, because 34 was being considered for retirement by the Phillies in honor of the late Roy Halladay.
- In 2010, the Nationals drafted Harper (see Transactions below).
In 2010, Bryce was awarded the Golden Spikes award.
In 2011 and 2012, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Bryce as the #1 prospect in the Nationals organization.
Harper had an eye exam on April 19, 2011, which resulted in prescription contact lenses. He then went on a hitting tear.
Probably around the time Bryce became a teenager, his father, Ron, taught him never to drink anything from a glass or open container if he was unsure about its chain of custody.
"I still do that," Harper said late in the 2011 season. "I don't drink at all. When I'd go to parties with my buddies—it's Vegas—I'd always bring a water bottle with me. I'd keep it in my hand no matter what. I still do. Anytime I go to anybody's house, I always have it in a closed container. I open it up, drink it right away or keep it close, just in case. Things happen, and I don't want to take a chance."
Arnie Beyeler, the manager for the Pawtucket Red Sox, had Harper in the Arizona Fall League and said, "He plays as hard as anyone I've ever seen. I love him."
That time in 2011 that Harper blew the kiss at the Greensboro pitcher? Bob Boone was at the game and said, "The pitcher was talking trash." Harper added: "The only time I do some of these things is when someone disrespects a teammate."
Asked on MLB Network whom he’d like to meet if he could go back in time, Harper replied, “Jackie Robinson, not only because he was a Hall of Fame player, but because of all he went through.”
Harper talks about hoping to meet several players around the game if and when he makes it to Washington. One of them is veteran grinder Chase Utley.
In 2012, Harper was the NL Rookie of the Year.
Harper's 2013 Opening Day jersey was auctioned off, and the Nats slugger was not happy about it. The jersey sold for just over $13,000. If only he had known sooner, he could have bid on it. Harper took to Twitter to express his frustration that the first Opening Day jersey of his career is in the hands of someone else.
Bryce tweeted "They just take my jersey away from me and don't ask if I want it or anything! First opening day! Jersey gone!"
Sports Illustrated's Dan Patrick asked Harper, "When's the last time you were nervous in a game?"
Bryce responded, "I've never been nervous. I never feel pressure. It's so much fun to be part of games that are 1-1 going into the 10th inning. Or you're up bases loaded, bottom of the ninth. That's something you live for. I've always dreamed of hitting a walk-off home run in the playoffs."
Patrick asked, "Is it hard to live your life?"
To which Harper said, "I got a great group of guys on my team and a great family and support at home. I try to have fun while I'm playing and be a good person on and off the field."
In July 2013, Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline said that he is fascinated by the way the Harper plays the game of baseball. Kaline loves the way Harper goes all-out on every play and is impressed by how Harper has handled the pressures of big league life at such a young age.
"He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played," said Kaline, who is currently a special assistant to Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski. "He has tremendous ability and I expect him to go on—if everything goes right—to be one of the best players that ever played this game."
Kaline doesn't see Harper reaching a middle ground to avoid injuries. "If you pop up to the infield, you know it's going to be an easy out, you don't go 110 percent. You make sure you get on base and may get the extra base," Kaline said. "And of course ... the walls ... he is fortunate now that he plays the outfield where the walls are all padded. When I played, they were concrete.
"There are times—instead of going full belt into the walls, where he might hurt himself for good—you have to be careful. But you can't teach that. He's got to play the way he is taught and the way he has always played. He would probably feel he let the fans down if he didn't go hard all the time."
Kaline and Harper share something. They both entered the big leagues as teenagers and excelled early on. At 19, Harper helped the Nats win the NL East title and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. At 20, Kaline won the AL batting title. In Kaline's opinion, Harper is much stronger than he ever was.
"I've been fascinated by what he has been able to do. He's much stronger than I ever was, because I was 150, 155 pounds," Kaline said. "The only thing I would tell him is respect the game, which it looks like he does; take care of his body; be a good team player. If you leave this game as a good team player and gain the respect of your teammates, then you have done a great job. I know he is going to go all-out. I just hope that he stays healthy."
Kaline is impressed with Harper's swing. The Hall of Famer believes Harper is capable of winning the home run title. Kaline is not sure if the outfielder can win a batting title like he did in 1955.
"It looks like to me that he swings for home runs," Kaline said. "To me, if you swing for home runs a lot, you are not going lead the league in hitting. He is certainly capable of doing both if he puts his mind to it. He is trying to do what the team thinks he needs to do, whether it's a power hitter, he will probably try and do that. Whether he is able to [win the battle title and home run title], I don't know, because he is very, very aggressive at the plate." (Ladson - mlb.com - 8/01/13)
Harper, who attended seminary classes at 5:00 a.m. on weekdays in high school, writes "Luke 1:37" on every autograph he signs. "For with God, nothing shall be impossible." It's his way of spreading the gospel.
The Nationals traveled to Toronto to play the Blue Jays midway through the 2012 season. After one game, a reporter asked if Harper would take advantage of Ontario's lower drinking age (19, versus 21 in the U.S.) by drinking a celebratory beer with his teammates.
Harper, who is a Mormon and does not drink alcohol, replied, "I'm not going to answer that. That's a clown question, bro."
The comment quickly developed into an Internet meme, and the phrase itself repeated, in response to a question, by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Harper filed an application to trademark the phrase.
Harper announced in January 2014, that he wants an Ultimate Fighting Championship belt. No, he doesn’t want to become a fighter. He just wants one to wear, and he’s willing to hit a home run during batting practice with it if the UFC will give him one. The UFC responded by sending him a belt as long as he would take a picture hitting a home run wearing it.
Spring Training 2014: He doesn't wear all-out, warrior face paint like he did in college anymore, but Harper does still enjoy playing baseball with a healthy amount of eye black. So it's only natural the Nationals star now has his own eye black company.
WarriorBlack will be available later this spring, but Harper teased the company's unveiling it with a re-tweet of an advertising photo featuring the 21-year-old wearing the product, plus a hat and T-shirt sporting the company's name.
Harper did the photo shoot a couple of weeks ago in Viera, his latest commercial endeavor.
WarriorBlack touts itself as: "The premiere anti-glare under-eye formula available, and the only choice for MLB superstar Bryce Harper."
In July 2013, Harper was the youngest National League All-Star starter in history at 20. He and Tony Conigliaro are the only big leaguers with a pair of 20-homer seasons before their 21st birthday.
Bryce's diet veers between world-class athlete and overgrown kid, which makes sense because that’s what he is. Harper pours glutamine powder into yogurt-and-fruit shakes and drops amino vitamins into homemade organic juice. He also scarfs his mom’s made-from-scratch cooking. He sneaks Klondike Bars, Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes, and Double Stuff Oreos. He does not drink Red Bull or Five-Hour Energy, both full of sugar and caffeine and “absolutely terrible for you,” he said. Harper may submit to a craving for Mountain Dew but only in the offseason, and even then he takes one sip and throws the can in the trash.
“I mean, I’m not perfect,” Harper said, laughing as he sat in the Washington Nationals’ dugout late in 2014 spring training. “I eat ice cream all the time. Outside of that, I’m going to be smart.”
Harper avoids sugary drinks, treats pain relievers with skepticism and abhors performance-enhancing drugs. He turned 21 in October. He says he still does not—will not—drink alcohol.
“My body is what I work with,” Harper said. “It’s not just sitting behind a desk and I have to use my hands all day. It’s my body. This is what I have to do every single day. I come in, and I have to feel good. If you’re going out and drinking and partying, you’re not going to feel good the next day. I want to get my eight hours and be able to eat good meals and not be sluggish or anything like that. My body is my temple, and I’ve always thought that.”
In the winter, Harper relies on his mother for the brunt of his nutrition. Protein from grilled chicken. Healthy carbohydrates from pasta. She makes everything, from ranch dressing to spaghetti, so Harper knows he will not be putting artificial sugars in his body. “She’s unbelievable,” Harper said. “I’m very, very lucky.”
Harper adds sophistication to his mom’s cooking. He researches vitamins online to determine what supplements to use and when to use them. He uses creatine powder in cycles during the winter, typically four weeks on, two weeks off. He said amino vitamins, which his father turned him on to, are “the best thing I can put in my body.” After workouts, to maximize recovery and eliminate cramping, Harper uses glutamine powder. He adds liquid protein to drinks.
He will drink black coffee if he needs a jolt during the season. He uses off-market Gatorade products that do not contain sugar. Harper began making his own juice this winter and loved it—kale, cucumber, green apple, and green tomato. When he wants a late-night snack, he “crushes” an avocado and cucumber sandwich. (Adam Kilgore - Washington Post - 3/27/14)
"You can't question the way the kid plays the game," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "He plays the game hard."
Harper may be only 21, but he has typically been old-school in his approach. Charlie Manuel, when he was managing the Phillies, had old-school covered. He was asked which contemporary player played the game the way it should be played. "The left fielder for Washington," Manuel said, meaning Harper.
There was one notable break in that wall-to-wall effort in April 2014, when Harper failed to run out a comebacker to the pitcher. Williams removed Harper from the game. Harper said the manager had done the right thing. All parties rapidly moved on from the episode. It stood as a surprise, in that it differed so dramatically from Harper's usual level of effort, but it was not an issue that festered, or lingered, or created a long-term problem.
Harper has suffered injuries as a result of his nonstop approach. He missed 44 games in the 2013 season. Harper had a left knee injury, the result of running into an outfield wall at Dodger Stadium. The risk of injury will continue as long as he plays all-out, but neither the player nor the club would be well-served by having Harper turn into somebody else, somebody less, on the field.
Harper is running, but it's not like he's running for office. His public comments can be candid, perhaps too candid for his own good. But that candor beats the alternative.
Asked what he thought about comparisons between Mike Trout of the Angels and himself, Harper didn't pull any punches. "I really don't care," he said. "I couldn't care less about opinions. If they like him, they like him. If they like me, they like me. If they like both of us, then they know the game. If they don't, they're crazy."
After a recent injury, there will undoubtedly be calls for Harper to ditch the head-first slides and/or generally curtail his full-tilt style of play. Swell. If he did that, he would be somebody other than Bryce Harper. That is not what will win for the Nats. There are no halfway measures in the game of Bryce Harper. (Bauman - mlb.com - 4/29/14)
July 2, 2014: Nationals manager Matt Williams did his best to eliminate any perceived tension in his clubhouse regarding Harper's comments about the lineup.
Before returning to the field after missing more than two months with a torn left thumb ligament, Harper addressed the media and displayed some dissatisfaction with Williams' decision to hit the 21-year-old slugger sixth in the batting order.
Harper also disagreed with where individuals were playing in the field, stating that Ryan Zimmerman playing left field, Danny Espinosa playing second, and Anthony Rendon playing third "should be what's happening." Harper's proposed lineup would have presumably moved him to center field in place of Denard Span.
Instead, Williams played Rendon at second, Zimmerman at third, and Harper in left field, with Span retaining his starting job in center field. The rookie manager proposed that Harper's comments were taken out of context.
"What was the question asked?" Williams said. "And how did he respond to that particular question? We don't often hear the question. We just get the response. So with regard to scrutiny regarding the lineup, that's on me. I make the lineup. And that's all that Bryce said: 'He makes the lineup. I'll play left field or I'll play center or I'll play wherever he wants me to, and I'll hit wherever he wants me to.' I think that's the proper response. And I don't think he had anything different. He said, 'If I have the pen, it may be different.' That's perfectly fine. It's perfectly fine. That doesn't mean he disagrees with the way I'm doing things or has some issue with me."
In reality, the question that prompted Harper's response asked how appreciative Harper was of Zimmerman's unwavering willingness to move from position to position. After his return on June 3, Zimmerman started 25 games in left field—a brand new position for him. He has since returned to third base, even though he made clear on multiple occasions he'd prefer to stay in left. (Daniel Popper MLB.com, 7/2/14)
January 3, 2015: Harper and Ohio State soccer player Kayla Varner are planning two weddings for Jan. 2-3 in Southern California.
They will be married in a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ceremony on Jan. 2 and follow with a traditional wedding on Jan. 3.
Harper spent three hours going through the measuring process at Stitched in The Cosmopolitan in October 2014. Harper and his wedding party, nicknamed “The Holy 7,” will wear brilliant Navy sharkskin Bespoke tuxedos with Cognac-colored leather shoes.
“He proudly said he was in charge of designing the tuxedos. He dreamed out loud and we matched that,” said Eamon Springall, founder and president of Stitched.
“The Holy Seven” is a reference to Mickey Mantle’s No. 7. Harper, who favorite player was Mantle, wears 34, which adds up to seven.
Kayla was Nevada’s High School Soccer Player of the Year in 2009 and 2011. They both grew up in Henderson.
January 2015: Harper submitted an audition to appear on the sitcom "Modern Family."
March 2015: Harper was voted the "most overrated player" in baseball in a poll of his peers conducted by ESPN The Magazine. Harper garnered a whopping 41 percent of the vote, according to The Washington Post's DC Sports Bog. (Editor's note: Then he went out and won the 2015 NL MVP.)
Until Harper gains complete control of his on-off switch, the Nationals will have to come to grips with his combustibility quotient. They want him to play with his hair on fire, while simultaneously maintaining control. It can make for a delicate balancing act amid the heat of competition.
Amid the helmet-flinging and the ejections, Harper has come across as a more engaged presence during the 2015 season. He’s more receptive to constructive criticism, his teammates say, and less immersed in his own private cocoon. He might take the bait from umpires, but he’s resisted the temptation to lash out at keyboard antagonists who have decreed that he’s a punk or a villain.
“I don’t want this to sound the wrong way. But I’ve always had the spotlight, so it’s never bothered me,” Harper said. “I’ve always been under the microscope, so it’s never been a problem for me. I’ve always just taken it in and said, “OK, this is how it’s going to be.”’
In the final analysis, even people who wish that Harper would cease with the blowups are only too happy to welcome him to their fantasy rosters. Harper has yet to ascend the podium and graduate from baseball wunderkind to finished product. But in a what-have-you-done-for-us-lately world, he’s doing more than his share. (Jerry Crasnick - Baseball America - 6/19/15)
Bryce is a pretty strong dude. Actually, no, let us rephrase: Bryce Harper is the MLB equivalent of that kid from your Little League days—the one so physically different you'd swear he was actually in college already. He makes baseball bats look like twigs, his swing could provide enough wind power to keep the lights on in D.C. for a decade and he's spent all season raining dingers with reckless disregard for the welfare of upper decks. Even his popups turn into home runs.
So, it's only fitting that ESPN would tap Harper for the "Body Issue" of ESPN the Magazine—like fellow NL East star Matt Harvey before him—because a nation demands to know what it's like to be the 22-year-old incarnation of Wolverine.
And of course, Bryce being Bryce, he did not disappoint. Some highlights:
1. He can squat 405 pounds and wants everyone to know it. "I'm proud of that—that's one of my favorites."
2. He's "about 8 percent body fat right now."
3. After tearing a ligament in his thumb while sliding into third last year, the simple things became a challenge. "I'm trying to do my shirt, and it's like, 'Mom, come help me. I can't get my shirt on.'"
4. Bryce's mom apparently makes some pretty delicious cookies, and Bryce takes his ice cream sandwich methodology very seriously. "I'll put the cookies inside the microwave for, like, 12 seconds. It's got to be 12 seconds. And then I'll grab the ice cream and I'll make an ice cream sandwich. And I mean it's unbelievable." Again: 8 percent body fat.
5. Here's a real thing he said about Robinson Cano: "There's nobody as sexy as Robinson Cano in the box. I had a coach, Chris Sheff, who always told me to be as sexy as you can in the box. And, I mean, if you look at Cano ... that guy has one of the smoothest, best swings I've ever seen." (Landers - mlb.com - 7/2/15)
Harper was elected to start in the 2015 All-Star Game.
July 14, 2015: Don't get Bryce wrong. He loves this All-Star Game thing and harbors future ambitions for the Home Run Derby, despite declining an invitation in 2015. If Harper is asked, he will say no again next year in San Diego, then once more in 2017.
But when the Derby comes to Washington the year after that, Harper plans to participate. "I'd like to do it in D.C.," Harper said.
Earlier in the day, Harper lounged inside Great American Ball Park's home clubhouse, at the corner locker that used to belong to Ken Griffey Jr. He spoke of the growing influence of baseball's young superstars, as Griffey once was, and as Harper, Mike Trout and others are now. Trout may have generated grander headlines, homering to lead off the Midsummer Classic, but plenty of scouts and general managers would still take Harper given the choice. (A DiComo - MLB.com - July 15, 2015)
In 2015, Baseball America named Harper their Major League Player of the Year after the 22-year-old slugger's impressive 9.5 WAR campaign.
In 2015, Harper earned the Hank Aaron Award, representing the best offensive season in the National League.
Harper was honored by his peers with the Players Choice Award for National League Outstanding Player. The Players Choice Awards, which the Major League Baseball Players Association started in 1992, are voted on exclusively by the players.
In 2015, Harper won the NL MVP.
December 17, 2015: Bryce and Kris Bryant were honored with keys to the city of Las Vegas. The NL MVP Award winner and NL Rookie of the Year Award winner are both Las Vegas natives. Growing up, Harper and Cubs star Kris Bryant, also a Las Vegas native, played together and against each other. The two were first teammates when Bryant was 9 years old (Harper is nine months younger).
The previous December, Harper and Bryant were reunited in their hometown when they were presented keys to the city. "He always played up with the older guys because he was so good," Bryant said of Harper last year. "He was always so much bigger and so much stronger than everybody and better. He always threw hard and hit the ball farther. I was like, 'Wow, this kid is going to go somewhere.' Obviously, he's here and doing what he's doing. I expected nothing else."
- Going into the 2016 season:
Before Harper added his name to the Major League registry in 2012, there had been only 35 players who ever played in at least 450 games through the conclusion of their respective age-22 seasons. As ranked by OPS+, the top four on that list of 35 don't need much of an introduction. They are Ty Cobb (163 OPS+), Jimmie Foxx (159), Mickey Mantle (148), and Mel Ott (147).
With Bryce Harper completing his fourth season in 2015, that pre-2012 list of 35 has expanded, and that legendary quartet is now bookended by two active players: the sparkling Mike Trout (who has surpassed Cobb and leads with his blazing 167 OPS+) and Harper and his 143 OPS+. It has sometimes been easy for Harper to get overshadowed by Trout, but Harper has carved a path previously marked by some of the game's goliaths. For example, through age-22:
• Harper ranks seventh in home runs, behind Hall of Famers Ott, Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson, contemporaries Alex Rodriguez and Trout, and fellow teenage phenom Tony Conigliaro.
• Harper stands in a tie with Hall of Famer Al Kaline for the ninth most extra-base hits. Those ahead: Ott, Rodriguez, Hall of Famer Ted Williams, Trout, Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr., Cesar Cedeno, Foxx, and Vada Pinson. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Harper's stats through the age of 22 match up quite nicely with those of Mickey Mantle, who is considered one of the most dynamic stars in MLB history. Imagine that: Mantle and Harper side by side. But we can do more than imagine.
Now, as for single-season accomplishments:
• Through his age-22 season, Mantle's single-season highs included 67 extra-base hits (in 1952), 37 doubles (1952), 27 homers (1954), 291 total bases (1952), a .311 average (1952), a .408 OBP (1954), a .530 slugging mark (1952), a .933 OPS (1954), and a 162 OPS+ (1952);
• Through his age-22 season, Harper's single-season apexes (all coming in 2015): 81 extra-base hits, 38 two-base hits, 42 homers, 338 total bases, and his .330/.460/.649/1.109, 195 OPS+ line.
And this is where Harper has a notable edge on Mantle: Through age 22, Harper's season high for wins above replacement is 9.9, which he accomplished in 2015 en route to winning the NL MVP Award. Mantle's high was 6.9, which also came at the age of 22 in 1954.
Mantle's 1955 season saw the Yankees' center fielder soar even higher than before. It started a 10-year run in which he would claim three MVP awards and one Triple Crown, average 37 homers and 109 walks per season, and assemble a .314/.443/.614/1.057 slash line (188 OPS+).
Squint, and Mantle's 10-year destruction of the American League from 1955 through 1964 looks like what Harper did in 2015. Last year, Harper looked a lot like Mantle at his (extended) peak. (Roger Schlueter - MLB.com. - Feb. 20, 2016)
It was Career Day at Harney Middle School in Las Vegas. A nice lady stands in front of a sixth-grade classroom to discuss professions with the boys and girls seated in front of her. Each student is asked to declare a career, and it's a rundown of the usual suspects: firefighter, doctor, veterinarian. The nice lady's enthusiastic reaction to those last two answers triggers a chain reaction; even the kids who didn't have the slightest clue what they want to be figure they can't go wrong with one of those. Around the room it goes. Doctor. Veterinarian. Sure, why not?
When it winds around to the biggest kid in the room, Bryce says, "I want to be a professional baseball player."
"Well," the lady says, a jagged shard of disapproval seeping into her tone, "I think maybe you should pick a new profession. You know that doesn't happen very often."
Harper looks at her with a stony silence. The words he wants to say are right there. "You've got no clue," he wants to say. But instead he says, "Yeah, well, that's just my dream."
Chauncey, seated a desk away from Harper, can't let it end there. This woman needs to know. It's an act of kindness, even mercy, on his part.
"No, you don't understand," Chauncey says. "He really is going to be a professional baseball player. He's the best 12-year-old in the country." (Tim Keown/ ESPN The Magazine /March 2016)
Bryce wants to change the game. He wants to change the perception of baseball players, to become a single-name icon like LeBron and Beckham and Cam.
"I don't know much about Bryce," says his new manager, Dusty Baker, "but I know he's one of the hippest kids around."
Harper wants to elevate his sport's profile through his play, through his fashion, through the charisma of his personality, maybe even through the fascination with the size of the first free agent contract that he'll sign shortly after his 26th birthday. Is this a prodigy's natural urge to innovate or a sign of youthful hubris?
"Endorsements, fashion—it's something baseball doesn't see," he says. "In soccer, it's Beckham or Ronaldo. In basketball, it's Curry and LeBron. In football, it's Cam. Football and basketball have such good fashion."
There are impediments endemic to the sport. Everyone knows about Russell Westbrook's unique couture because he's wearing it in an interview room. The baseball player, on the other hand, is interviewed at his locker, often shirtless and sporting a hat head that can ruin even Harper's unique follicle landscaping. As Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman says, "We're uniformed personnel."
And then there's the larger obstacle: the game's stern code. Case in point: Papelbon vs. Harper. It started when Orioles third baseman Manny Machado hit a home run against the Nationals the previous September and reacted with too much excitement, so Jonathan Papelbon drilled him the next time Machado came to bat. That caused Harper to suggest to reporters that baseball's code is "tired," which led to Papelbon berating and then choking Harper four days later after the closer found his teammate's hustle lacking—a Rube Goldberg display of baseball's grim underside.
Harper has admitted fault in going to reporters instead of speaking to Papelbon directly. ("If I had a problem with Pap, I should have gone up to Pap," he says.). And both men say it didn't last beyond that day. But that's not what Harper wants to talk about now.
"Baseball's tired," he says. "It's a tired sport, because you can't express yourself. You can't do what people in other sports do. I'm not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it's the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair. If that's Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom or Manny Machado or Joc Pederson or Andrew McCutchen or Yasiel Puig—there are so many guys in the game now who are so much fun.
"Jose Fernandez is a great example. Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist. And if you hit a homer and pimp it? He doesn't care. Because you got him. That's part of the game. It's not the old feeling—hoorah. If you pimp a homer, I'm going to hit you right in the teeth. No. If a guy pimps a homer for a game-winning shot . . . I mean . . . sorry."
He stops, looks around. The hell with it, he's all in.
"If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I'm going to go, 'Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully I get you next time.' That's what makes the game fun. You want kids to play the game, right? What are kids playing these days? Football, basketball. Look at those players—Steph Curry, LeBron James. It's exciting to see those players in those sports. Cam Newton—I love the way Cam goes about it. He smiles, he laughs. It's that flair. The dramatic."
The question is this: Can Bryce Harper help eradicate baseball's old-school thinking—the unwritten rules, The Code, a century and a half of shut-up-and-play? And create a game in which players respect each other and retain the right to express themselves fully without fear of a fastball to the ear hole?
It's a big dream. But if not him, who? Mike Trout is Harper's equal as a player, but he's as publicly charismatic as a plate of sand. Harper, in true prodigy fashion, demands attention. In Game 4 of the 2014 division series against the Giants, he stood on deck in the seventh inning with the Giants leading 2-1. A fan in the sunken seats about 10 feet away, holding a glass of red wine, berated Harper with an intensity that couldn't be ignored.
"Hey, buddy," Harper said. "How's that glass of wine?"
Harper remembers that the fan sputtered before saying, "You're going to strike out."
"You know I love playing here, don't you, buddy?"
Seconds later, Harper drove a fastball into San Francisco Bay. As he touched home plate and turned for the dugout, Harper fixed his eyes on the fan, holding his stare a step or two longer than necessary.
"He was just devastated about life," Harper says.
It's the certainty, right? That's why so many people have a problem with Harper. He can be good, but he can't let us know that he knows how good. He can hit that homer, sure, and we can admire it, but it's that stare he gives the wine-drinking fan—the extra-long linger that sinks the needle just a bit deeper—that changes everything. (Tim Keown/ESPN The Magazine /March 2016)
Bryce has "Pop" tattooed on the underside of his right wrist and "Mom" in the same spot on the left. He has his surname and Luke 1:37 from the Bible, in elongated script down his right side, stretching like taffy from underarm to hip: "For with God nothing shall be impossible." (Tim Keown - ESPN The Magazine - March 2016)
Prodigies, whether their instrument is a piano or a 34-inch Marucci, share a trait Boston College psychology chair Ellen Winner has dubbed "the rage to master." It's not so much anger as persistence.
"You can't tear them away," she says. "They're single-minded. They just want to get better and better."
Bryce's dad is an upright, pug-like man who spent decades swinging 300-pound bundles of rebar high above the Vegas Strip.
"He'd get up at 2:00 a.m., be at work by 4:00, work 'til 2:00 p.m. in the blazing heat, and then walk in the door and say, 'OK, let's go get the hittin' in.' He was never too tired," Bryce says.
Harper is too arrogant or too young. Or he's too young to be arrogant. He's heard it all.
"I don't care," he says. "I ... don't ... care. I really don't. As long as I can look in the mirror and say I played as hard as I could, I think people get opinions when they see me play the game and see the hard-nosed, chip-on-my-shoulder kind of thing. That's the way I play. I want to kick your teeth in. And after the game I can walk out of those doors and be the happiest person in the world."
His long-time childhood friends say that Bryce is the same way he's always been. One said, "When we were little, I was scared to death of him. The thing about Bryce was, he did not ever slow it down. A lot of people look at his attitude as negative, that he's cocky or arrogant. My answer to then is, 'Why, because he's good and shows it?'"
Why pretend? Is false modesty any less distasteful than outward self-assurance? Besides, Harper doesn't have a problem admitting failure. In fact, he relishes it, bringing it up as often as he can, as if pressing his fingertips to a bruise to relive the pain. (Tim Keown - ESPN the Magazine - 3/28/2016)
Harper was 0-for-4 at the start of the fall season at the College of Southern Nevada, and he sat on the edge of his bed, a 16-year-old playing against men, and asked himself, 'Can I really do this?' He told his Pop, "I don't know about this. I kind of want to go back to high school."
"Is that what you really want?" Ron asked. "If it is, we can go back."
"No, no," Bryce said. "I can't go back."
The next day, he homered in his first at-bat and came home and sat on the same edge of that same bed and told himself, "I think I've got this!"
Another failure story: One summer in travel ball, he was playing in the Area Code Games in Long Beach, California. One game, he faced Tyler Skaggs, a future first round pick by the Angels.
"He struck me out three times, and I walked back to the dugout thinking, 'Wow, these guys are good.'"
When Tim Keown asked Harper, "Was that the last time you faced someone you could say was better than you?"
Bryce emitted a noise that technically, was a laugh, if defined by the strictest rules of noise clarification, but was probably closer to a scoff or a choke.
"I will never say somebody's better than me," he says. "I don't think those words will ever come out of my mouth." (Tim Keown - ESPN the Mag - 3/28/16)
Bryce received a trio of honors during a special presentation before the Nationals' 2016 home opener against the Marlins. He was presented with his 2015 National League MVP Award and Silver Slugger Award by GM Mike Rizzo before receiving a key to the city from Mayor Muriel Bowser.
"Oh, it's incredible, it's always an honor to get the key to the city." said Harper, who also received a key to the city for his hometown Las Vegas. "Truly, I love D.C. and I love to live here, I love playing here. And what an honor to be able to get the key to the city from the mayor and I mean, I can't ... words can't explain how grateful I am for that."
Harper then proceeded to hammer his second home run of the season off righthander Bryan Morris, a 385-foot solo blast into the stands in right field.
The key to the city was the latest honor, unexpected after his historic breakout season. Upon receiving the trophy for his MVP Award, Harper held it high above his head with a wide smile as he showed the trophy to the crowd, which welcomed him with "MVP, MVP" chants. (Collier - MLB.com - 4/7/16)
Bryce acknowledged that he idolized Barry Bonds as a kid and called him the greatest hitter on the planet because of the way he could swing the bat. Winning seven National League MVP Awards can be convincing to a youngster like Harper.
"There is nobody better than him in this game," Harper said about Bonds. "It's something I was able to watch when I was younger. I tried to take things from him as far as what he did with is approach. He was the greatest player when I was growing up and watching."
The respect appears to be mutual from Bonds, who is the hitting coach with the 2016 Marlins. Bonds admired what Harper accomplished during his NL MVP season last year. Last season, for example, a lot of experts were saying that Harper put up numbers similar to what Bonds put up in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Harper is the only player in Major League Baseball history with at least 42 home runs, 124 walks and 118 runs scored at age 22 or younger. And he is the youngest player in MLB history with at least 42 home runs and 124 walks in a season. Harper put up those numbers without having any protection in the lineup.
"When you are good, you are good. You don't need anyone behind you," Bonds said about Harper. "Bryce doesn't need anyone hitting behind him. If he wants to be impatient and swing at everything, it's going to make it worse on him. But he is patient. He is a great hitter who doesn't need anyone behind him." Bonds went so far as to call Harper "a beast," but said not to compare Harper to Bonds when it comes to longevity. Harper has to be great a few more years in order to open his eyes.
"He doesn't compare to me yet. He has a long way to go [in order to be compared] to me. He is not even close to me," Bonds said. "But he is one heck of a ballplayer. I watch him, I admire and I look at him and I'm in awe. You don't see it that often. For my eyes to get real big and go, 'Wow,' you have to be something special. ... It's longevity that [I have to be] over-wowed about. Right now, I'm impressed."
Harper agrees with Bonds. Harper said he has a long way to go in order to match what Bonds accomplished during his career. "He has seven MVPs, I don't know how many Gold Gloves. I can go on and on how good he was," Harper said. "He is somebody I looked up to [the moment he went into the batter's box]. Hopefully, I can learn some things from him as well and see what happens."
If Bonds had to give Harper advice, it would be to stay healthy. According to Bonds, Harper has already set the bar high because of what he accomplished last year.
"To repeat that every year, people are going to come out and the expectations are going to be high," Bonds said. "Do it for a long time, because it goes by fast. Take care of your body, manage yourself right, stay healthy. Your body is your No. 1 investment. Give these people what they want." (Ladson - MLB.com - 4/10/16)
April 14, 2016: Harper loves big-stage situations. It happened to be Harper's mother's birthday, and he hit home run No. 100, a grand slam off Julio Teheran in a 6-2 win over the Braves at Nationals Park.
At 23 years and 181 days old, Harper is the eighth-youngest player in Major League history to reach the mark. Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Eddie Mathews, Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, Miguel Cabrera and Johnny Bench were younger than Harper when they hit their 100th homer.
"It was awesome. It was my mom's birthday, so I was able to hit her a homer," Harper said of his blast, tracked by Statcast™ at 425 feet. "Today was definitely huge. I love these fans, I love this organization. It's a thrill to do it in front of the home crowd. I was glad I was able to do it here." (B Ladson - MLB.com - April 14, 2016)
Harper seems to be very committed to achieving his maximum, no question about that. His focus is amazing, and he will never stop working hard to achieve it.
Bryce is considered a sports-history aficionado, and on May 3, 2016, he went to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City to be presented with the museum's Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston Legacy Awards for being the National League home run leader and NL MVP Award winner in the 2015 season.
Harper was honored, of course, but he was more enthralled by the history of the Negro Leagues as he toured the building. He respects the players who came before him, and Harper said Negro Leagues players are one of the reasons he is in the game today.
"Baseball is a great game, it started a long, long time ago," Harper said.
In addition to marveling over the size Gibson's forearms, Harper also took note of how much fun the players in the Negro Leagues appeared to have while on the diamond.
"It's truly incredible what they went through and how they went about it," said Harper, who attended the museum on Wednesday with Nationals manager Dusty Baker and some of his teammates, including Gio Gonzalez. "They still loved the game every single day. They did everything they could to make it to that point. [The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum] is the place to see. I had a lot of fun. It's such a great site. I think a lot of people need to go out there and check it out and see what it's all about.
"Those guys had fun. I think a lot of people could learn a lot of things from them, how they went about it, how they played the game. They didn't take it to the level where they said, 'Oh, my God, the game is so serious.' They really had fun about it. They took it serious as well, but they truly had fun. They really enjoyed what they did. I think a lot of people can learn from them." (Ladson - MLB.com - 5/3/16)
Bryce is sticking with Under Armour for the foreseeable future. The company announced it has signed Harper to a multiyear endorsement extension. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but ESPN reported the extension was believed to be for 10 years and would be the largest endorsement deal for a baseball player in history.
"I'm thrilled," Harper said. "Alongside Steph Curry, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, and Jordan Spieth, it's such a great brand. Being able to be alongside those guys, it makes you want to play better and as best as you can, and do everything you can for the fans."
Harper, 23, was the youngest unanimous MVP in history in 2015 after hitting .330 with 42 home runs and leading the NL in runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging. Harper initially signed with Under Armour in April 2011—10 months after he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Fellow players Clayton Kershaw and Buster Posey also are endorsed by Under Armour, which also has reigning NBA MVP Curry, reigning NFL MVP Newton and current PGA Tour Player of the Year Spieth under contract.
"I try to go about it the right way. I want to try and get kids to play this game," Harper said. "I want to help them dream as they can. To get to the big league level. They can get here. I will try everything I can to help this game succeed and put the Nationals out there. I just try to have fun and enjoy what I do." (Kruth & Ladson - MLB.com - 5/3/16).
May 14-15, 2016: Harper has dropped his appeal, and he served his one-game suspension in the nightcap of the doubleheader against the Marlins. Major League Baseball issued the suspension to Harper for his actions following his ejection in the ninth inning, which included returning to the field. He was allowed to play during the appeal process.
Unique behavior: Harper provided some insight when speaking with MLB.com's Jamal Collier after a game in May 2016. He had cut up his batting gloves (which he had not worn) after hitting a home run.
"Nah, it's just so people don't sell them on eBay, to tell you the truth. I always cut the batting gloves up and they're ripped on the top of the hand and had the bat boy come in and give me another pair and put them on and ripped them again. I guess the baseball gods don't want me to wear the batting gloves right now. I went up and hit a homer and came back and cut 'em up just so guys don't come out of the trash can and grab 'em and sell 'em. It's happened before, so cut 'em up now." (Garro - MLB.com - 5/26/16)
July 2, 2016: At a gala for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, 16-year-old Kaylan found out that her wish was going to be granted. She was going to spend a day with Bryce Harper, and there was Harper delivering the news to her in a video message. "Oh, I was crying the whole video," she said. "I didn't even hear it."
The two spent the day together with Harper giving Kaylan a tour of Nationals Park and the team's facilities. She wore a custom No. 34 Nationals jersey with her name on the back as the two played catch together and took swings in the batting cage.
In collaboration with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Harper and Kaylan's time together will be featured on ESPN as part of the 10th anniversary of SportsCenter's My Wish Series, beginning July 17. "Best day ever," Kaylan said. "It's hard to recreate."
Kaylan has been battling a kidney condition since birth and in 2015 she learned that she needed to have a transplant as soon as possible. Her mother, Summer, ended up being the person who gave it to her. Kaylan does have to take 24 pills every day to prevent organ rejection and she undergoes regular scans to monitor her kidney function. The transplant is not a permanent fix and she almost certainly will have future medical complications and could need additional kidney transplants.
But Kaylan is able to enjoy her life for now and spends it playing varsity high school softball in Gaithersburg, Md. She also gets to Nationals games whenever she has the chance, including Max Scherzer's no-hitter on June 20, 2015. Kaylan named Harper as her favorite player, and the best part of the day was just getting the chance to hang out with him and talk baseball.
"Kaylan, she's a sweet spirit," Harper said. "I've never done anything like that. Doing something like that, it's a lot of fun. I'm very happy that I was able to do that and the whole team, the whole organization, they really took part in that. I can't thank them enough as well for letting her come in and do what she wanted to do."
Before the game, Kaylan got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Harper, who implored her to throw from the mound. Then she watched the game with her family. It was a 10-inning loss to the Reds, 9-4.
"It's been more than I could imagine," Kaylan said about her day. (J Collier - MLB.com - July 3, 2016)
In 2016, Bryce has made himself into one of the faces of baseball with his play on the field and actions off the field. He earned the most votes among NL outfielders (2,865,095) as an All Star selection. In 2015, he was the youngest unanimous NL Most Valuable Player in history.
Harper, 23, will be making his third career All-Star Game start and fourth appearance overall. He joins Gary Carter (four) and Andre Dawson (three) as the only players in franchise history to earn at least three fan selections to the All-Star Game. (Collier - MLB.com - 7/5/16)
December 2016: Harper married his fiancee, Kayla Varner at the San Diego Mormon Temple. The wedding party included Nats teammate Jayson Werth and former teammate Ian Desmond.
Jan 6, 2017: Look, it may be impossible to understand how strong Bryce Harper really is. We can watch him mash baseballs into the Andromeda Galaxy, sure, but until humanity achieves interstellar travel, we may never know just how far his home runs reach. We can gaze upon his bulging muscles, but their latent power escapes rational thought. His true strength seems unfathomable.
So it's nice of him to occasionally show, explicitly, how strong he truly is. Yes, Harper's offseason workout routine apparently includes deadlifting more than twice his bodyweight. Also, he was smiling as he deadlifted 505 pounds. Hmm . . . did we say he mashes homers into the Andromeda Galaxy? We may have to expand the map a little bit for 2017. (B Cosman - MLB.com - Jan 7, 2017)
Bryce's torrid first month of the 2017 season has ended in record-breaking fashion. Harper scored four times in a 23-5 victory over the Mets, increasing his number of runs scored through in April to 32 and surpassing the Major League record of 29 set by Larry Walker in 1997.
"That was a Major League record?" Nationals manager Dusty Baker asked. "Well, he was on base enough." (Macklin - mlb.com - 4/30/17)
May 4, 2017: Regarding high school proms, gone are the days of teenagers sheepishly and sweatily asking their classmates to prom. From guitar serenades to Spring Training flyovers, the traditionally awkward and uncomfortable act of asking someone to prom has become an act of showmanship.
This trend has drawn celebrities and athletes into the fold as spokespeople for adolescents. Enter Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper. At Palm Desert High school in California, Sean Garvey, son of former Major Leaguer Steve Garvey and brother of Harper's former travel team teammate Ryan Garvey, needed to ask his girlfriend to the prom. So he got Bryce Harper to do it for him.
Although Shannon Coyne indicates that Harper's intervention was probably unnecessary, Harper's role in the endeavor may have led to a more emphatic "yes" than Sean Garvey may have received if left to his own devices. (Chesterton - mlb.com)
Bryce and Olympic swimmer, Katie Ledecky are like half of the Justice League. One has dominion on the land, the other in the sea. Harper carried the U.S. Swimmer's multiple gold medals when she threw out the first pitch at a Nationals game, and he celebrated the Nationals' NL East title with a Ledecky cap.
May 31-June 4, 2017: MLB has reduced the suspension for Harper by one game, a source confirmed to ESPN. Harper, who originally received a four-game ban for his role in a fight with Giants reliever Hunter Strickland, dropped his appeal and will start serving his three-game suspension.
Jan 2018: Cupping dates back to 1,550 BC and involves using suction cups on your body to promote healing and increase blood flow. But because this is Bryce Harper, when he goes cupping, he goes all the way. He brings it to another level. (M Clair - MLB.com - Jan 26, 2018)
Before games, even in Spring Training, MLB players are usually locked in and focused on the task at hand. They're listening to music, getting worked on in the trainer's room or eating plates of chicken. But before the Nats' spring tilt against the Mets, the five-time All-Star found time to help a woman surprise her husband with a very special announcement—the news that her husband would be a first-time father.
MLB.com reached out to Will's wife, Lauren, who hatched the scheme. Lauren had just recently found out she was pregnant and was trying to figure out a fun way to tell her husband. When they decided to come down from their home in Orlando to Spring Training for their two-year anniversary, she knew it would be the perfect place to tie it in.
"So, here's how it happened," Lauren said. "Today while Will was distracted and watching the team warm up, I caught a glimpse of manager Dave Martinez and I knew this was my chance. I managed to sneak away and caught up with [him]. I called him over and said I had a kind of strange, and probably far-reaching scheme in mind."
She went on to tell Martinez how her husband was the biggest Bryce Harper fan alive and wondered if the outfielder could somehow help her break the baby news to him. "Coach, of course, was incredibly nice and congratulated me and said he would see what he could do. I was so excited and hopeful, but I had to try to contain myself so Will wouldn't get suspicious."
Then, as the team was heading back to the locker room, Martinez and Harper came walking directly toward Lauren and Will. Lauren says her heart was "beating through her chest" as Harper reached over the fence to sign Will's custom Harper bat. That's when she made her move.
"While Will's distracted by this, Martinez reaches over the fence to me where I secretly handed him a sonogram picture of our baby so he can hand it off to Bryce. After signing the bat, Bryce looks at Will and says, 'Happy Anniversary and congratulations,' and hands Will the sonogram. Will was just caught up in the moment and couldn't process what was happening. Then it hits him, Will turns to me, and with the most confused and excited look on his face says, 'Really?!'"
Safe to say Will was a tad excited, yes. The following morning, Bryce issued another congrats on Twitter, along with a helpful suggestion for the child's name: "Congrats again! That was one of the cooler things I’ve ever done. So happy for you! Heard Harper is a great name, haha." (Monagan - mlb.com - 3/13/18)
June 17, 2018: Bryce honored his father by unveiling a pair of specialty blue cleats with the words "My Dad Is My Hero" on them. Ron Harper is no stranger to the big league diamond, after previously throwing to Bryce in the 2013 Home Run Derby. (Chisholm - mlb.com)
July 2018: Harper was selected to play in the MLB All-Star game. He also participated in the Home Run Derby. Harper won the Home Run Derby in his home ballpark and in front of tens of thousands of adoring Nats fans. Making it all the more dramatic is that Harper prevailed over Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber in a hotly contested final round.
Per Derby rules, the pitcher is supposed to wait until each batted ball lands before delivering the next pitch. In Harper's case, he was off Schwarber's final-round pace of 18 home runs by 5 with less than one minute on the clock.
Harper began closing the gap. And as the clock wound down, Harper's pitcher—his dad, Ron—appeared to break that "wait until the ball lands" rule on multiple occasions.
July 23, 2018: MLB put the ball that Harper hit to win the Home Run Derby up for auction but then had a change of heart. The ball had a bid of $7,020. The bidding was set to end at 9:59 p.m. ET on a Monday night, but MLB Auctions sent out an email to bidders calling off the event.
"This email is to notify you that this listing has been pulled from MLB Auctions and is no longer eligible for sale," it read. "We're appreciative of Bryce's participation in the Derby, so we've decided to remove the ball from the auction site and give it to him."
The ball had some historical significance. Harper had joined Todd Frazier of the Reds in 2015 and Cubs great Ryne Sandberg in 1990 as the only players to win the Home Run Derby at their home parks.
- Although no one around the Nationals refers to Harper by "Mondo," the nickname has stuck for the Harper family. "Everybody still calls me that," Harper said. "My entire family."
Harper credited his uncle for giving him the name, although he was not exactly sure why, when he was a child playing T-ball growing up with Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. For whatever reason, the name has stayed with Harper through the years. (Collier - mlb.com - 8/23/18)
Harper has wrist tattoos, with his right wrist stating "Pops" and left reading "Mom" in cursive. (Melnick - mlb.com - 8/23/18)
You know Bryce rakes. He won the T-Mobile Home Run Derby earlier in the 2018 summer. But did you know he also rakes ... literally?
The infield at Citizens Bank Park was particularly water-logged on September 10, 2018, eventually postponing the Nats-Phillies game as the grounds crew tried to keep things in order as best it could. Harper, perhaps just a bit tired of rain delays after the weekend's situation at Nationals Park, saw this as a perfect opportunity to try a new hobby.
He helped the grounds crew as he raked the infield and threw down a drying agent on the infield. If both clubhouses had emptied to help, maybe they could have gotten the field ready. Despite their best efforts, Mother Nature won out. (Garro - mlb.com - 9/10/18)
Nov 24, 2018: ESPN's College Gameday traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for the Big Ten rivalry between Ohio St. and Michigan. As usual, Lee Corso and company invited a celebrity up to make some picks at the end of the show. And they picked the pride of Las Vegas and College of Southern Nevada alum Bryce Harper.
Wait ... what does Harper have to do with the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry? As it turns out Harper's wife Kayla played soccer for Ohio State, which is why Harper was decked out in Buckeyes gear.
It's not surprising, then, that the free-agent outfielder picked the Buckeyes over the Wolverines, even if it meant going against the rest of the panel, but he explained that the stakes were actually pretty high. "My wife would kick me out of the house if I picked Michigan," he said.
Ohio State didn't represent the only easy pick he made. Regarding the BYU-Utah matchup, Harper said, "Anytime I can root against BYU, I do it."
But it wasn't all easy. When it came to picking the winner of Georgia-Georgia Tech, Harper publicly apologized to catcher and Georgia Tech alum Matt Weiters before picking Georgia to come away with the win.
Overall, Harper displayed impressive knowledge of college football, dropping stats for players and teams without the assistance of notes. Even the other panelists seemed impressed. The real test of Harper's knowledge came in the Ohio State-Michigan game. Bryce's non-consensus pick proved to be right as Ohio State notched a convincing win over Michigan, 62-39. (E Chesterton - MLB.com - Nov 24, 2018)
2019: Every baseball card fan dreams of designing their own set. Bryce created his very own Topps baseball card set.
The set is called "220," meaning "Second to none," a phrase of particular importance to the All-Star slugger. Every piece of the set was chosen by Harper. "Anything you see, it's all me," Harper said during a Facebook Live video he made to introduce the cards.
"They asked me what I wanted to do with the first set, and I wanted to make my own team," Harper said.
That meant choosing his favorite starting nine, including DH, plus three starting pitchers and two relievers. Harper naturally included his teammates Max Scherzer and Sean Doolittle, but Harper revealed he's a big fan of his rivals too. Players like Javier Baez, Jacob deGrom and Freddie Freeman earned selections. And, oh yeah, Mike Trout made the cut, too.
Even the backs of the cards got the Harper treatment, with the star offering his thoughts in lieu of the cartoon or fun fact that have traditionally resided on the back of Topps cards.
Where Harper's "220" gets really interesting, though, is in the smaller, stranger, mini-sets he created. There are cards dedicated to the best hair in the big leagues. Andrew Benintendi and his dreamy locks got a nod here.
He also includes a separate group of his baseball heroes. Alongside players like Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones and Josh Gibson is his burly, Home Run Derby-assisting father, Ron Harper.
The set is wrapped up with his "Look Good, Feel Good, Play Good," cards, basically a Barbie's dreamhouse collection of Harper in casual clothes and on-field garb. (Cut4-MLB.com)
Feb 2019: Bryce's free agency remains one of the biggest mysteries as Opening Day approaches, and it's no secret that Washington, D.C. would love to see him back in a Nationals jersey. In fact, District Doughnut, a D.C.-based donut shop, has decided to offer Harper quite the perk if he does indeed return to the Nats: Free donuts for life! Here's the tweet:
"Dear @Bharper3407,@Chef_Christine made these for you today. We are #MadeInDC just like you and we would love to keep it that way. Our offer still stands: doughnuts for life if you stay with the @Nationals!
Love, District Doughnut"
We don't know how high donuts rank on Harper's list of favorite foods, but anyone who appreciates sweet treats would surely be intrigued at the very least by the prospect of never-ending glazed deliciousness.
If you're a hockey fan and you find this story familiar, that's because it is: Last summer, a New York bagel shop offered free agent John Tavares bagels for life if he stayed with the New York Islanders. Ultimately, the free bagels weren't quite enough, and Tavares signed a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (J Shusterman - CUT4 - Feb 26, 2019)
March 3, 2019: Harper set a Major League record when he landed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies, who officially introduced their newest right fielder on March 2, 2019 at Citizens Bank Park.
But a day later, Harper has already set another remarkable record: His No. 3 Phillies jersey is the top-selling jersey of all-time for any player in any sport within 24 hours of launch, according to Fanatics. Did you know @Bharper3407 @Phillies jersey is the #1 selling jersey of all-time in any sport for any player during the first 24 hours of a launch? (Fanatics Tweeted @Fanatics.)
Iconic home runs have been synonymous with Harper long before he raised the trophy at the 2018 Home Run Derby. During an interview before he was drafted, Harper recounted a home run he hit as a freshman at Las Vegas High School. His coaches estimated it traveled 570 feet, leaving the field entirely and surpassing five lanes of traffic en route to an eventual landing spot in the desert.
A year later, Harper competed at the Power Showcase at Tropicana Field as a sophomore, despite the event typically being reserved for upperclassmen. Though he didn't end up winning, he did hit the longest home run of the event—a 502-foot blast to the very back of the dome. (Jordan Shusterman-MLB.com-March 2019)
Harper rewrote the junior college baseball record books ... as a 17-year-old ... with wood bats!
A key decision during Harper's young career was the choice to earn his GED after his sophomore year and graduate high school early, allowing him to enroll in the nearby College of Southern Nevada (CSN).
This allowed him to become draft-eligible a year earlier than a normal high school draft prospect. But even with all the hype surrounding him going into his season at CSN, Harper completely blew past all expectations and put up a historic season, despite being younger than everyone he was playing against. And using wood bats for much of the season. (CSN's conference used wood instead of the metal traditionally used in collegiate competition.)
The line was staggering: .443/.526/.987 in 66 games. He hit a school-record 31 home runs. He stole 20 bases. He primarily played catcher and routinely used his cannon arm to throw out baserunners from his knees. His signature performance came in an elimination game in the regional finals, when he went 6-for-6 with four home runs, a double and a triple. That's 21 total bases in one game! (For context, the MLB record is 19, which Shawn Green did in his four-HR game in 2002.) As if his preposterous offensive exploits weren't enough, Harper also pitched once and was clocked in the mid-90's with his fastball. (Jordan Shusterman - MLB.com - March 2019)
An optometrist once told Harper that he had some of the worst eyes he'd ever seen.
After being selected No. 1 overall in the 2010 Draft, Harper began his first full professional season on the Nationals in 2011 with the Class A Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League. As one of the youngest players in the league, Harper initially struggled, posting a .667 OPS through his first 12 games. He then visited the team optometrist, who reportedly told him, "I don't know how you've ever hit before. You have some of the worst eyes I've ever seen."
Yes, this is after Harper's record-smashing amateur career, during which Harper apparently could hardly see at all! Imagine the numbers he could have put up if that visit to the eye doctor had come a few years earlier. Armed with a stronger contact lens prescription, Harper quickly got his performance up to his usual standards, posting a 1.032 OPS over the next 60 games with Hagerstown before earning a promotion to Double-A. (Jordan Shusterman-MLB.com-March 2019)
Bryce believes he knows how he will feel in that moment of his first at-bat in Philadelphia. (Does he not know about the fickle fans in Philadelphia?)
“It’s funny,” Harper said, “I was talking to Phillies manager Gabe Kapler probably the first or second day of Spring Training. When I step in the batter’s box, my heart rate, everything like that, is controlled. It is my sanctuary, it is what I do. I get more stressed out driving down the highway or freeway in traffic, I am super nervous about that or anxiety.
“When I step into the batter’s box, 45,000 people going crazy, I would love to put a heart rate monitor to see what it looks like because I enjoy those moments. I enjoy the craziness. That is what I do. I love that. I love those situations. I think it is that jump-out-of-a-plane kind of feeling; you get into a batter’s box, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded or even the first game of the series, first game playing somewhere new. I am looking forward to that, looking forward to seeing what that feels like again and being in those situations of high intensity, emotion and anything like that, so I am very excited.”
Harper's first career big league plate appearance came April 28, 2012, against Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley at Dodger Stadium. Harper grounded out to the pitcher. Harper’s first plate appearance with the Nats at Nationals Park came against D-backs right-hander Trevor Cahill on May 1, 2012. He struck out swinging.
“My first AB in D.C., I definitely remember vividly,” Harper said. “So that was pretty cool being able to get my first standing [ovation] from my home fan base. This is a new chapter. I think this is definitely going to be a little bit different, coming from Philly instead of DC. I am looking forward to that and looking forward to being out there and wearing a Phillie uniform, and just being out there Day 1, and I am very excited to be in front of a new fan base and see what it is all about.” (Zolecki - mlb.com - 3/26/19)
March 28, 2019: The scene outside Citizens Bank Park had the feel of a fall Sunday, not a Thursday morning in late March. The clear sky was clouded by the smoke from portable grills, the smell of meat wafting through the crisp air. Fans tailgated across the street at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL's Eagles, preparing for the first of 81 home games in a baseball season filled with rising expectations.
Those expectations, of course, ballooned significantly one month ago. That's when Bryce Harper agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies, bringing his immense talent to Philadelphia after seven seasons playing just 120 miles down I-95 for the division-rival Nationals. Scores of fans sported brand-new No. 3 jerseys and T-shirts, hardly a surprise after Major League Baseball announced earlier in the day that Harper's jersey had already taken over the top spot in the league's jersey sales despite spotting everybody else a two-month head start.
Opening Day was accompanied by all the usual pomp and circumstance, from pregame musical performances to parachuters raining down on the field. The customary introductions went as expected: Boos for the visiting Braves and cheers for the hometown Phils, the loudest one reserved for the city's newest star.
"The story was the atmosphere," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "It felt very much like October out there."
This ballpark hasn't hosted meaningful October games since 2011, but the Phillies' 10-4 win over the Braves was the kind of game that will give fans here the hope that things will change this fall. And although the box score won't reflect much of a contribution from Harper, his presence has given the Phillies a different look and feel.
Harper trotted out to right field before the first inning, his bright green cleats visible from any seat in the ballpark. When the scoreboard showed a close-up of the spikes, it revealed the green was Phillie Phanatic fur-colored, with the mascot's face in the corner of the shoe. Say this for Harper: He's doing his best to court favor with his new home crowd.
"I just thought it would be cool," Harper said. "Just bring some fun to the game. The Phanatic is always happy and smiling, so why not?"
Once Aaron Nola made quick work of Atlanta in the top of the first, the buzz in the ballpark began. Harper's first at-bat was only minutes away. What many fans forgot was that another Phillies newbie was about to make his debut first.
Andrew McCutchen blasted Julio Teheran's 2-0 fastball into the left-center-field seats, the leadoff homer sparking an already enthusiastic crowd. Harper stepped up one out later to a big ovation, and even after he rolled over on a slider for a routine groundout to first base, the fans gave him an ovation, seemingly happy just to see him in their team's uniform. Harper's next couple of at-bats were uninspiring; he struck out against Teheran in both the fourth and fifth innings, the first coming with a runner in scoring position and nobody out. A very faint smattering of boos could be heard after each whiff. but as Harper will quickly learn, a gigantic contract comes with great expectations, even on Opening Day.
Harper wasn't given a chance to do something in his final at-bat, as Braves manager Brian Snitker intentionally walked him to load the bases with nobody out in the seventh. Rhys Hoskins made Atlanta pay, belting a grand slam two pitches later to break the game open.
"That's the presence of Bryce Harper, right?" Kapler said. "We've talked about it all spring long; if I walk, if they walk me, the guy behind me doing damage like he did," Harper said. "That's what it's all about."
So while Harper's debut may have been anticlimactic from an individual standpoint, fans left the yard crowing about a victory, dreaming of the kind of season they haven't experienced in a decade. If the Phillies can post a convincing win without any meaningful contribution from Harper, imagine how good they'll be when he hits? (M Feinsand - MLB.com - March 28, 2019)
April 1, 2019: Bryce and Kayla Harper's baby announcement was as Philly as it gets.
We're only one weekend into the 2019 season, but no athlete has ever seemed as happy to be in their team's city as Bryce Harper is to be in Philadelphia. One day he's playing catch with Rob McElhenney, the next he's making his Citizens Bank Park debut in Phillie Phanatic cleats and customizing his bat knobs and taking the world's most raucous curtain calls.
But in case all that (and, you know, that 13-year contract) aren't proof enough of his love for the City of Brotherly Love, Harper decided to kick it up a notch: He and his wife, Kayla, are set to welcome their first child, and they announced it in just about the Philliest way imaginable.
As if the caption and the Phanatic varsity jacket weren't enough, Bryce and Kayla went ahead and took a photo under the Ben Franklin Bridge at Race Street Pier. It seems like Bryce will be sticking around for a while. Maybe he'll run for mayor. (CUT4 - April 1, 2019)
July 2019: Bryce was invited to participate in the All-Star Home Run Derby.
In an interview with Jay Bruce, mlb.com asked him about playing with Bryce.
MLB.com: What is it like playing with Bryce Harper?
Bruce: "It has been great. Bryce is someone I’ve played against a long time, someone I respected from the other side. I admire his game—the game-changer, impact bat. He walks all the time. He gets on base. He hits home runs. He comes to the field every single day ready to go.
"That’s something that is impressive, and it’s becoming less common for that to be the case for players these days with the platoon and the numbers upstairs saying you need to rest these many days. He essentially plays every single inning of every single game. That is super impressive. It doesn’t get talked about very much, but knowing what it takes every single day to figure out how to get in there and usually make an impact on the game—both sides of the ball, too—is something that is very appreciated in this clubhouse."
MLB.com: It seems like Bryce is more than what you expected.
Bruce: "I don’t think he is more than what I expected because I played against him a long time. I think he handles himself well beyond his years. Like I said, he comes ready to play. He is one of the guys. He is a guy you want on your side." (Ladson - mlb.com - 7/16/19)
Aug 26, 2019: Harper and his wife Kayla announced the birth of their son. "Krew Aron Harper," they posted on their Instagram accounts. Krew was born at 7 pounds, 9 ounces, and 19 inches long. Krew is the couple's first child.
“Everybody’s healthy, so that’s the biggest thing,” Harper said. “But yeah, it’s pretty cool to say I’m a dad now. It all went by super quick, but I’m really happy that she’s healthy and the baby’s healthy. That’s all that matters.”
Not only did Harper homer in his first game back, but he also honored his son in another way. Harper had “KREW” written on the knob of his bat.
- Nov. 22, 2020: Bryce and his wife Kayla made a huge offseason addition to their family when the couple officially welcomed their second child to the world, a daughter named Brooklyn Elizabeth.
Bryce announced his family’s efforts to help his two hometowns as they battle the coronavirus pandemic. His family, in partnership with Direct Relief, Three Square and Philabundance, donated $500,000 to “those in most immediate need” because of COVID-19.
“We are blessed to be together as a family during this pandemic but realize many do not have the same luxury,” the Harpers said in a statement. “Las Vegas will always be my family’s first home. Philadelphia, our home away from home, welcomed us with open arms from day one. These communities mean so much to us, and Kayla and I want to do our part to help battle the effects of the virus in Vegas and Philly.”
Direct Relief, according to its website, is “a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies—without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.” Three Square pursues a “hunger-free community” in Southern Nevada.
The Phillies and Philabundance have been longtime partners. It is the Delaware Valley’s largest hunger-relief organization. (Zolecki - mlb.com - 4/2/2020)
May 6, 2020: Harper read a bedtime story to the Phanatic and young Phillies fans live from the Phanatic’s Instagram account (@philliephanatic). Harper put his heart into it, too. How do we know? Well, he showed up in full uniform, including pants, jersey and cap. This is something big leaguers never do outside the ballpark. But Harper did.
“Like the uni?” Harper asked the Phanatic. “Pretty good, huh? What’s up everybody? So excited to be able to read this book to the Phanatic today and all you guys. I hope all the little kids out there and little adults enjoy this story. I miss you guys. I can’t wait to get back to the Bank and hit some homers and win some games. I thought I’d get into full uni for you guys. I feel like it’s Halloween, but I’m excited to be back.”
Harper read “The Phillie Phanatic’s Philadelphia Story” from the Phanatic’s book series. This one had the Phanatic donning a virtual reality helmet and going back in time, where he flew a kite with Ben Franklin, cracked the Liberty Bell and attended the signing of the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall—all so he could pass a history test.
Harper is a big Phanatic fan in real life. He wore green Phanatic spikes on Opening Day 2019 and wore a Phanatic headband throughout his first season in Philly. He has other Phanatic swag, too.
Harper bantered with the Phanatic throughout the story. Well, he bantered as much as he could with the Phanatic. The Phanatic doesn’t talk.
“Everybody talks about Ben Franklin,” Harper said, “We need to start talking about the Phillie Phanatic.”
This is the second time the Phillies had somebody read a bedtime story to the Phanatic and kids. Phillies manager Joe Girardi and his wife Kim read a book last week. (Todd Zolecki)
The legend began in Las Vegas when Harper was a catcher/pitcher at 8 to 10 years old. He struck out, which he never did at that age, and was so angry, he went to the mound and started throwing as hard as he could.
When Harper pitched, Joey Gallo, now with Rangers, was his catcher. Harper bounced a couple of violent fastballs, Gallo turned his back on one, the ball hit him in the ribs. He started crying and the coach took him out. He spent the rest of the game in the stands eating ice cream with Harper's mother. Gallo never caught again. (Tim Kurkjian - June 7, 2020)
2020 Season: The season was limited to 60 games and the Phillies failed to make the postseason yet again. Harper put up some very good overall numbers with 13 home runs, a .962 OPS and a league-leading 49 walks.
Projected to a full season, his 2020 numbers would be 35 home runs, 111 runs, 132 walks, and 22 stolen bases.
March 20, 2021: Bryce was photographed by teammate Bryson Stott pumping his own gas on the way from the Phillies' facilities in Clearwater to a game at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.
In the photo, Harper is pictured fully dressed for the game, down to the high socks, as he fills his tank.
The decision to suit up for the drive to the game may be related to some teams taking batting practice at their home fields before traveling to away games this spring, but that's unconfirmed. Maybe Harper just wanted to look awesome on the way to the game as well as on the field.
Anyone who had time for a quick coffee run and a gas station stop on the way to high school practice can easily identify the exact vibes encompassed in this snap. Who doesn't remember the fun of there being just enough time between a school day ending and practice starting to go for a drive with your teammates and grab some snacks or run an errand? A mini road trip in full uniform makes it feel that much more of a good time, even if you're a Major Leaguer, apparently. (W Mcintosh - MLB.com - March 20, 2021)
April 28, 2021: Harper is incredibly fortunate. And he knows it.
Another inch or two up, another inch or two over, and Harper might not have walked off the field at Busch Stadium. He certainly would not have been on a Zoom call with reporters, talking about how he hopes to return to the Phillies’ lineup against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. A 97 mph fastball struck Harper on the face, near his left eye and nose, but he suffered no broken bones or even a concussion.
How in the world?
“Definitely had an angel on my side out there that night,” Harper said.
Harper has replayed the pitch from Cardinals left-hander Génesis Cabrera countless times. He remembers looking at the scouting report, and seeing how Cabrera throws a first-pitch curveball about 60 percent of the time. Harper sat on the curveball, so when Cabrera’s first-pitch fastball came up and in he had scant time to react. Harper tried to get his hand up to block the pitch. He could not. The pitch struck Harper, then his left wrist. He fell to the ground and instinctively felt his face.
“I just wanted to see if I was split open or if I was mush,” Harper said. “So I kind of pressed on it. Everything felt fine. I pushed on my nose area. I was bleeding a little bit, but I didn’t feel like it was running water. You know when you get hit or something and it feels like running water because it’s bleeding? I didn’t have that feeling. I heard [home-plate umpire Chris] Segal tell me to stay down. I thought to myself, ‘No, I'm getting up. I'm not going to be out here. I'm getting up, no matter what. If I fall down, I fall down, but I'm getting up.’”
Harper walked back to the dugout. He asked hitting coach Joe Dillon if it looked bad.
“I don’t know,” Dillon said. “Not really. I mean, yeah, you’re bleeding. But I don’t know.”
Harper’s wife Kayla was watching on TV. He contacted her immediately. Harper’s parents found out because they got text notifications on their phone: “Bryce Harper hit in the face with a 97 mph fastball. Exits game.” Harper eventually FaceTimed his father to tell him that he was OK.
“The first 30 minutes to an hour after, I was kind of worried,” Harper said. “'What’s going on in my head? What’s going on with my face? My body?' All those thoughts creep into your mind, wondering, 'Am I OK? Am I going to be OK?' It was definitely a whirlwind of emotions at the time, but definitely glad to be sitting here right now.”
A CT scan at the hospital revealed he was OK. But he knows it could have been different. Just a couple inches up or a couple inches over.
“That weighed heavily on me,” he said. “I was kind of emotional at the time. A little upset about the situation that happened. And then a little emotional just because I was thinking about my kids, thinking about my wife. I think baseball kind of goes to the side, right? It kind of goes to the side in that situation, in that moment. So, start thinking about bigger things, start thinking about your family, start thinking about your kids. And what if, right? And then you go through seeing the doctor and everything like that, and then you get calmed down a little bit.”
Harper could not play, not because of his face, but because his left wrist was sore from the ball’s ricochet off his face.
“It kind of hit me in that perfect spot, right on the bone and tendon area there,” he said.
Harper said a couple times that other players have not been so lucky. Some lost their vision after a pitch like that. Others never played again.
“My mom is great,” Harper said. “She's a special person, and I absolutely love her. She said, ‘You must have angels with you tonight, they must have known what was going to happen.’ And I agree. I mean, I just I'm very blessed and fortunate to be where I am right now. And I just I can't really explain it to you. I don't think anybody can. It just happened and it hit me, and I'm just very lucky to be sitting here talking to you guys right now.” (Todd Zolecki - MLB.com - April 30, 2021)
Nov 1, 2021: Harper adds the Musial Award to his trophy case.
Harper was notified that he won the Players Choice Award for NL Outstanding Player, which is noteworthy because players vote for the winners. But Harper also received a Musial Award, which honors the year’s “greatest moments of sportsmanship and the biggest names in sports who embody class and character.”
If you want to know why the St. Louis Sports Commission and the nonprofit National Sportsmanship Foundation recognized Harper, think back to the sixth inning at Busch Stadium on April 28.
Harper got hit in the face with a 97 mph fastball from Cardinals pitcher Génesis Cabrera. It was an incredibly scary moment as the ball struck Harper near his left eye and nose, which led to him being transported to a local hospital. Miraculously, Harper suffered no broken bones or even a concussion, although the ball deflected into his left wrist, causing an injury that later placed him on the injured list. Still, he recovered to have an MVP-caliber season.
“Definitely had an angel on my side out there that night,” Harper said a couple days later. Harper is one of baseball’s best players, so a pitch like that could foster some ill will, including retaliation. But after Cabrera apologized that night for the errant pitch, and Cardinals manager Mike Shildt texted Harper a message of support, Harper told Shildt that he knew the pitch was unintentional. Harper then offered to speak to Cabrera on the phone.
“I just wanted to make sure he was OK,” Harper said at the time. “He’s a young kid. He’s a young pitcher and that could definitely mess with somebody. We’ve seen it. You’ve seen it in the past with guys that hit somebody or they throw a pitch to the backstop, and then it’s an onion that just opens, right?” Shildt praised Harper for the kind words and offer.
“Whoever’s a fan of Bryce Harper support that guy, because what he sent over in a message today was completely a class act,” Shildt said. “He wanted to make sure that Génesis knew that he was aware it was unintentional, and that if he needed to talk to make sure he was OK with, mentally, what took place, that he was free to have the conversation with him. He had empathy for the guy that hit him.So a lot of respect for Bryce Harper, and a lot of respect for the kind of player he is, but even more respect now for the way he handled a very tough situation. That's a stand-up guy.” (T Zolecki - MLB.com - Nov 1, 2021)
2021 Season: Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper has been selected as the 2021 National League recipient of the Hank Aaron Award as voted on by fans and a panel of Hall of Fame players. This is Harper’s second career Hank Aaron Award, having previously won in 2015.
“Hank was one of the titans of this sport and one of the most honorable people to play this great game,” said Harper. “To win the award that bears his name for a second time is truly humbling and I am honored.”
Harper, 29, slashed .309/.429/.615 in 599 plate appearances over 141 games for the Phillies this season. With 101 runs, 100 walks, 42 doubles and 35 home runs, he became just the fourth outfielder in the history of Major League Baseball with 100 runs, 100 walks, 40 doubles and 35 home runs in a season, joining Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Stan Musial.
“Bryce is a baseball historian and a true student of the game,” said Phillies Managing Partner John Middleton. “It is undoubtedly an incredible honor for him to win the award that bears Hank Aaron’s name. I’m thrilled for Bryce as his extraordinary 2021 season continues to be recognized with awards, particularly one as special as this one.”
Harper led the majors in slugging percentage, OPS (1.044) and OPS+ (179) and he led the National League in doubles, extra-base hits (78) and Win Probability Added (4.74). Harper and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. were the only two players in MLB this season to post a .300/.400/.600 slash line as Harper became just the fourth Phillies player since 1900 to do so, joining Ryan Howard, Chuck Klein and Lefty O’Doul. Awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, the award was introduced in 1999 to mark the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. Harper is the second Phillies player to ever win the Hank Aaron Award as he joins Ryan Howard who did so in 2006. He joins Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols and Giancarlo Stanton as the only four National League players to win the award multiple times.
In addition to the Hank Aaron Award, Harper is a National League MVP finalist, a NL Silver Slugger finalist and was selected by the Major League Baseball Players Association as NL Outstanding Player of the Year, as voted on by his fellow players. Harper was also named a 2021 Stan Musial Award winner by the St. Louis Sports Commission in celebration of the year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship and those in sports who embody class and character. (MLB - Nov. 9, 2021)
Nov. 18, 2021: Harper took National League MVP honors picking up the award for the second time. Harper claimed MVP honors in 2015 with the Washington Nationals.
So many thoughts and emotions raced through Bryce Harper’s mind at that moment. He thought about his family, of course. Family always comes first for Harper. They were with him at home in Las Vegas, when he learned that he won the MVP.
His son, Krew, stood behind the camera, waved at him and smiled. But Harper thought about his teammates; Phillies managing partner John Middleton, who hopped on a flight to Las Vegas a few years ago to convince him to come to Philadelphia; manager Joe Girardi and his coaches; Phillies fans and the city of Philadelphia. He thought about the work and the pain. He played with an injured back, shoulder and wrist at times this season. He miraculously survived a 97 mph fastball to the face in April.
It got him choked up. He shed a few tears.
“I’m sitting there with my wife and looking at my kids, knowing that my family’s there, it just makes me emotional, you know?” Harper said in a conference call with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “I think being able to play baseball in Philadelphia, you want to do so well for your organization, you want to do so well for the people around you. But you also want to do well for yourself, knowing the work that has been put in this year, knowing that I got hit in the face and that was a hard thing for me to come back from.
“I think it was just the involvement of everything combined. Having two kids and not sleeping as well. I mean, that’s a grind. I have a 5-month-old, 6-month-old, who wasn’t sleeping, teething all that kind of stuff. It’s just part of the whole process and understanding that my wife [Kayla] was just a gamer all year round, not having any help and her just being able to take care of my kids when I’m on the road. There’s just so much stuff that goes on outside of the game as well that’s just an emotional toll, and being able to bring this one home back to Philadelphia just means so much to me.”
Harper got 17 first-place votes and finished with 348 points in voting by the BBWAA. Nationals slugger Juan Soto got six first-place votes and 274 points, and Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. got two first-place votes and 244 points to finish third.
It is Harper’s second NL MVP Award. He previously won in 2015 with the Nationals, which makes him the fifth player in baseball history to win MVPs with two franchises, joining Frank Robinson (Reds, Orioles), Barry Bonds (Pirates, Giants), Alex Rodriguez (Rangers, Yankees) and Jimmie Foxx (A’s, Red Sox).
Harper is the Phillies’ first MVP since Jimmy Rollins in 2007 and the eighth MVP in franchise history. Mike Schmidt won three of those eight. He made the announcement live on MLB Network. It all puts Harper on a Hall of Fame track.
It is easy to see why Harper won. Harper batted .309 with 42 doubles, one triple, 35 home runs, 84 RBIs, a 1.044 OPS and a 179 OPS+. He led baseball in doubles, slugging percentage (.615), OPS and OPS+. He ranked second in the NL in fWAR (6.6), on-base percentage (.429) and walks (100); third in batting average and outfield assists (10); sixth in home runs and runs (101) and ninth in bWAR (5.9). He even had 13 stolen bases.
Harper is the fourth outfielder in baseball history to have at least 100 runs, 100 walks, 40 doubles and 35 home runs in a season. Babe Ruth, Stan Musial and Bonds are the others.
“This one just felt a little bit different,” Harper said. “Being a little bit older, a little bit more mature, being able to have the teammates that I do, and the family that I do with my kids -- my son, Krew, and my daughter, Brooklyn. It just feels a little bit different in that way. Being able to enjoy this with them with my family and my friends, my teammates, the city of Philadelphia, bringing it back to them.”
Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in Feb. 2019. It came with enormous expectations. He has lived up to the hype and then some.
Harper was asked whether he felt like he checked off a box: Play like a superstar with the Phillies. He was asked whether it left him with one more box to check: Win a World Series.
“I don’t want to check anything off, of course,” he said. “I have 10 more years there. So I never want to check off and say, ‘Hey, I did it, I don’t have to do it again.’ I want to keep doing that, come in every single year, ready to go, ready to play. Last season was a great season for myself, but our main goal as an organization is to win a World Series. That’s my goal.”
The Phillies are working on that. Harper is, too. He said after he got up with Krew and made him breakfast, he worked out, then did Pilates. Afterward, Harper picked up a sharp red suit from the dry cleaners, which he wore for the announcement. He hoisted Krew onto his lap at one point, a proud father enjoying his moment with family and friends.
Krew is a little more than 2 years old. He is too young to grasp his father’s historic accomplishment. “No doubt,” Harper said. “I’ve got to do it for him again, hopefully.” (T Zolecki - MLB.com - Nov 18, 2021)
Nov 24, 2021: Phillies fans know that Bryce puts serious thought into his spikes. Take a look at his Phillie Phanatic-themed footwear the past three Opening Days, if you don’t know.
But some kids from the North Camden (N.J.) Pirates Youth Baseball Organization freed up Harper to focus on other things when they commemorated Harper’s 2021 NL MVP by designing a custom pair of Under Armour Harper 6 cleats. The North Camden Pirates organization was robbed in 2019, putting their season in jeopardy. Harper surprised them with an Under Armour and Dick’s Sporting Goods shopping spree, including cleats and Phillies tickets.
“We really wanted to do something extra special for Bryce to show him we appreciate what he’s done for us,” said 12-year-old Ryan Skinner of the North Camden Pirates. “He’s such an amazing ballplayer and really deserved the MVP Award.”
The kids designed the cleats. They include the Phanatic, of course. They also have “MV3” and “MVP” with a Phillies "P" on the back. They were delivered to Harper’s Las Vegas home sometime last week.
“This was a really sweet surprise and such a cool way to reconnect with the young North Camden athletes,” Harper said. “This game can present both struggles and triumphs, which they are all too familiar with. I’ll think of them every time I wear these cleats—they’re a representation of their hard work. "To be the kind of player these kids look up to really means the world to me. I mean it when I say that I play for them. The fact that they thought of me during this moment is truly special.” (T Zolecki - MLB.com - Nov 24, 2021)
July 8, 2022: Harper wins his 7th All-Star bid, his first with the Phillies. He deserved it, broken left thumb and all.
Major League Baseball announced that Harper beat the Braves’ William Contreras in a fan vote to be the National League’s starting designated hitter at the All-Star Game on July 19 at Dodger Stadium. Harper will not play because of the thumb fracture from June 25 in San Diego, which required surgery on June 29. But fans at least recognized that Harper had numbers worthy of inclusion.
Harper is the first Phillies player to be elected a starter since Chase Utley in 2014. Harper is not with the team in St. Louis to play the Cardinals this weekend, but he answered a few questions via text.
“It is an incredible honor to be voted in by the fans, especially for my first one as a Phillie,” Harper said. “I’m really upset I won’t be able to wear Phillies pinstripes in L.A. because of what happened, but I look forward to doing it again here soon in the future. I love this organization and fan base and wish I could do it for them.” (T Zolecki - MLB.com - July 8, 2022)
Harper is one of the most recognizable athletes in the sport. It was his first minor-league game since 2014. The IronPigs sold 7,000 tickets in a 24-hour span after Harper’s assignment was officially announced. They sold out Tuesday — 10,100 people plus 195 dogs on IronMutts night — and Harper delivered two home runs to entertain them. What does it mean to an affiliate to have Bryce Harper for a few days?
“From a business perspective,” IronPigs general manager Kurt Landes said, “it’s like a gift from heaven.”
“It was good being back,” Harper said. “Of course, I don’t want to be here all the time. The fans were great. The ballpark was awesome. The atmosphere was great.” As part of his recovery process from breaking his left thumb on June 25th, Harper had his dad throw batting practice to him last week at Citizens Bank Park.
When Harper stepped to the plate in the first inning, people were still waiting to enter outside the park. The lines for the concession stands were long. Most people turned around to catch a glimpse of Harper. Some were already wearing No. 4 shirts. Harper’s game-used jersey was auctioned for $2,600 to benefit IronPigs Charities. Everyone was watching. Harper completed his work, and it was entertaining.
“I’m just happy to be back out on the field,” Harper said, “and be around baseball again.” (Gelb-TheAthletic.com-August 24, 2022)
Aug. 2022: Harper committed to play for Team USA in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Feb. 13, 2023: If you approach Bryce Harper for an autograph, not only will you likely get one -- you might just end up with an article of his clothing.Bryce's wife, Kayla, posted a video on Instagram of the Phillies superstar making his way through the Phoenix airport with just a sock on his left foot. She detailed in the caption that a fan had asked Harper to sign his cap, but since they couldn't find a Sharpie that would show on the fabric, he signed his shoe with a regular pen and handed it over to the fan. (Bryan Horowitz)
Feb 14, 2023: There might not be two bigger stars in Philadelphia right now than Jalen Hurts and Bryce Harper.
Harper just watched Hurts and the Eagles play in the Super Bowl in Arizona. Hurts caught Harper and the Phillies in the World Series last fall.
Hurts did not miss a beat recently when a reporter asked him to name his favorite Phillies player.
“Bryce Harper,” Hurts said. “I love Bryce Harper. I remember he hit, uh, I don’t know, was it a grand slam? He hit a grand slam out of nowhere. I mean, it was crazy. I had baseball dreams long ago. But, yeah, Bryce Harper. The energy he brings, the passion he plays with, that’s what Philly is about. He embodies all of that. So a lot of respect for him.”
A year ago, Harper recreated a 1987 Phillies media guide cover that featured Mike Schmidt.
Harper has a true appreciation for sports history, which is why he also wanted to recreate a famous poster of Schmidt and Steve Carlton. It might have happened, too, if Zack Wheeler had won the 2021 NL Cy Young Award. (He finished second.)
It might be cool to recreate another iconic Phillies sports photo. Back in 1980, Tug McGraw, Julius Erving, Ron Jaworski and Pete Peeters got together at the Art Museum for a photo for Life Magazine’s year-end issue.
The caption read, “With teams like these, who needs brotherly love?”
How about Harper, Hurts and Joel Embiid in a 2023 version? At the very least, the Phillies need to get Hurts to the ballpark to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. The home opener, perhaps? (T Zolecki - MLB.com - Feb 14, 2023)
June 2010: The Nationals chose Harper in the first round (#1 overall), out of the College of Southern Nevada.
August 16, 2010: Just before the midnight deadline, Harper signed a five-year, $9.9 million contract, which includes a $6.2 million signing bonus. Mitch Sokol is the scout who signed him.
December 15, 2014: Harper and the Nats agreed on a two-year $7.5 million contract, avoiding a scheduled grievance hearing. The MLB Players Association had filed a grievance on Harper's behalf over whether he should be able to void the 2015 terms in the final season of the $9.9 million, five-year contract he signed when drafted.
January 13, 2017: Bryce and the Nats avoided arbitration and signed a one-year, $13.6 million pact.
May 15, 2017: A new deal will pay Bryce $21.6 million in 2018, with a $1 million bonus if he wins the MVP.
Oct 29, 2018: Bryce elected free agency.
- Feb. 28, 2019: Harper's new deal with the Phillies is for 13 years and $330 million. It features no opt-out clauses and has a no-trade clause. The deal is the largest in MLB history, breaking Giancarlo Stanton's previous record $325 million contract he signed with the Marlins in 2014.
Harper has a real knack for squaring up the barrel of his bat on the ball. He has faster bat speed than Mark McGwire in his prime. He hits lefties and righties, off-speed stuff and hard heat.
His power is some of the best ever seen in a prospect, and is rated a legitimate 80. It is almost entirely a function of his tremendous natural bat speed and the enormous torque he generates. Harper has the ability to easily backspin the ball over the fence to any part of the park.
But occasionally, Bryce with shift his hands downward and into his body, eliminating leverage. And he does have some extra movement in his swing. Sometimes he jumps out on his front foot too early. But when he stays down and lets the ball travel, he sees pitches well and can drive them hard to the opposite field. (Spring 2012)
Bryce's Dad has been his lifelong hitting coach. Up at 2:00 a.m. to lay rebar to help build the Strip in Vegas, Ron Harper, a former high school baseball and football player, spent many afternoons, evenings, and weekends on the field and in the cage with Bryan and Bryce. To further sharpen Bryce's hand-eye coordination, Ron pitched him sunflower seeds, bottle tops, dried red beans—just about anything small that didn't move straight.
Harper has quick, strong hands and a superb bat path. But he has had some issues with getting out in front on his swing. His swing pat can be inconsistent. Pitches on the outside corner at the knees give him trouble.
Bryce is quirky. Prior to entering the batter's box, he rubs his palms in the dirt, spits in his hands and then rubs his palms in the dirt once more. He enters the box and rubs more dirt on his hands. He takes his stance, touches the corners of the plate with his bat, and taps his front toe with the bat barrel.
Harper is incredibly intense and aggressive in all phases of the game, including at the plate. Some scouts wonder if he'll hit for a high average because of his propensity to take huge swings with a high, exaggerated leg kick, and jumpiness at the plate. But at other times he shows a much quieter, more efficient swing. Those flashes, coupled with his uncanny hand-eye coordination and impeccable work ethic, give other scouts reason to believe he'll eventually become more selective and produce for average as well as power. And in 2011, he improved his two-strike approach as the season progressed.
Harper is a throwback. He doesn't even wear batting gloves.
Bryce swings a 36-inch, 47-ounce bat, it was reported in 2011.
He flat-out attacks the baseball. He plays aggressively in all aspects of the game.
Harper's dedication to preparation runs so deep that he breaks down opposing outfielders the way most hitters break down pitchers. He knows which ones take a bad at bat with them to the field and thus might get a slightly slower break to field a base hit, allowing Harper to know that one of his mad dashes to turn a single into a double isn't the risk it appears to be. (Tom Verducci-Sports Illustrated-2/25/13)
Part of the reason for this success is his ability to observe and analyze opposing starting pitchers. "As I've seen him mature from last year to this year (2013), I think he's learned not only more about the competition that he's facing but he's learning more about himself," hitting coach Rick Eckstein said. "He learns what he needs to do and what he needs to focus on and how he processes that information, and uses it for his advantage."
2014 Season: Harper hit .309 on first pitches during the season, which appears as a good average. But the NL average was .336 in 2014. And, Bryce swung at the first pitch 42% of the time.
October 8, 2014: With four postseason homers, Bryce became just the fourth player to have four postseason homers before the age of 22. The others are Mickey Mantle, Miguel Cabrera, and Andruw Jones.
April 18, 2015: Bryce hit the longest home run of his career (thus far). The dinger was measured by Statcast at 461 feet, topping his previous best: a 444-foot shot on Sept. 8, 2012.
May 6, 2015: At 22 years, 202 days, Harper is the youngest player to hit three home runs in a game since Boston's Joe Lahoud (22 years, 53 days) on June 11, 1969. It was Harper's sixth multi-homer game of his career.
At 22 years (plus 204 days) old, Harper is the youngest player in MLB history to hit five home runs in a two-game span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He surpassed Mark McGwire, who had done so at the age of 23 years, 270 days. Harper is the 34th player since 1914 with five homers in a two-game stretch. He's the first to do so for the Nationals' franchise (the Montreal years). May 7 and 8, 2015.
Bryce's bat is one of baseball's most feared weapons, but at Nationals Park, the slugger's lumber was just one more observer. Harper put together a performance unlike any other in Major League history in the Nationals' 15-1 win over the Braves, reaching base four times and scoring four runs, all without an official at-bat.
His final batting line—zero at-bats, zero hits, four runs, one RBI and four walks—was truly unique. It's the first time in modern history that a hitter has drawn at least four walks and scored four runs and driven in a run without a hit or an at-bat.
"I've got confidence in everybody on our team to get a job done behind me," said Harper, who was removed in the sixth inning of the blowout after watching his walk total jump to 104 for the season. "I'll take my walks when I can. And when they throw the ball over the plate, I'll take my hits, too."
But if getting on base was a result of Harper's patience, the runs he scored were a product of the players behind him. "That's why Bryce didn't swing at a pitch and scored four runs," manager Matt Williams said. "There's your proof in the pudding right there."
Harper joins Ricky Henderson, Joe Morgan, and Larry Doby on an exclusive list of players to go 0-for-0 with at least four runs and walks.
"He's taking the steps necessary to make himself the player he wants to be, knowing that he's got to be aggressive in the strike zone," Williams said. "If they throw him one to hit in a situation where he can drive a baseball or get a knock or get on there for us, he's ready to do that."
The Braves didn't throw him one to hit. Harper saw 20 pitches from three pitchers in his four at-bats, and the bat stayed put on his shoulder for all 20. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the second-most pitches without a swing in a game in the past 10 seasons (Juan Uribe, 21, 2010). (Emert - mlb.com - 9/3/15)
September 5, 2015: Harper produced the 500th hit of his Major League career. He became the 30th Major Leaguer to reach that mark through his age-22 season, and only the third to do it since 2000, joining Starlin Castro and Mike Trout.
September 16, 2015: Harper made history when he became just the sixth player to hit 40 home runs in a season before his 23rd birthday.
September 22, 2015: Harper had his 117th walk, which broke Adam Dunn's Nats' club record of 116 set in 2009.
In 2015, Bryce was the NL MVP, the youngest MVP in history at age 23.
- April 14, 2016: Harper's 100th home run was something to remember. At 23 years, 181 days, the Nationals star became the eighth-youngest player in major league history to reach 100 home runs, Elias Sports Bureau research shows. The youngest to reach 100 home runs was Mel Ott, who got his 100th at 22 years, 132 days in 1931.
Harper's 100th career home run, also his first grand slam, was calculated at 429 feet. Since his debut in 2012, he has 21 home runs calculated at 425 feet or longer, including his 429-foot shot. The Major League leader in homers of such length since 2012 is Giancarlo Stanton, with 48.
Bryce is the only Major Leaguer whose first grand slam came on his 100th career home run, Elias research shows.
What Bryce did in the batter's box in early April 2016 was remarkable. Harper was so locked in, maybe teammate Gio Gonzalez said it best, "Let him be Bryce. He knows his body, he knows the way he is. The way he is going out there is unreal. It's next-level stuff."
Harper's home run in a loss to the Phillies, marked the sixth straight game he had homered in Philadelphia, which tied Hall of Famer Ernie Banks' MLB record for a visiting player, according to Elias. Harper also homered in four consecutive games overall, which was a career high. (Ladson - MLB.com - 4/17/16)
May 8, 2016: Harper matched a single-game record with six walks—three intentionally—including twice during extra innings with two outs, runners on first and second and the game tied at 3. He was also hit by a pitch, making him the first player in the past 100 years to reach base seven times in a game without recording an at-bat.
April 3, 2017: It is what is seemingly becoming an annual tradition, Harper launched an Opening Day home run, a solo shot in the sixth inning of their 4-2 win against the Marlins at Nationals Park.
Harper has one homer in each of the last three season openers and two in the first game of the 2013 season. With five home runs on Opening Day, Harper is the Major Leagues' active leader. And at 24, he is the youngest player in history to reach that number, ahead of Gary Carter's four and Mickey Mantle, Dean Palmer and Corey Patterson, each with three. (Jamal Collier - MLB.com)
May 16, 2017: Bryce has already established quite the career resume, and he hasn't even hit his 25th birthday. Harper has been a four-time All-Star, a unanimous MVP and he already has over 130 homers. That power helped him reach another early milestone during an 8-4 victory over the Pirates.
In the ninth inning, Harper connected on a two-run blast into the Pittsburgh night that happened to find its way to a lucky Nationals fan. The picture-perfect swing allowed Harper to crush the ball 112.6 mph off the bat, the hardest homer he's hit against a left-handed pitcher in the Statcast Era (and his fourth-hardest overall).
This long ball gave Harper an even more remarkable feat, though. PNC Park was the only ballpark in the National League where he had yet to go deep. He has now homered in all 15 NL parks, and he was aware that PNC was the last one remaining.
"Yeah, I've known that for years. Coming in, you always want to hit a homer and things like that, but that's not the only thing on my mind," he said. "Try to get good at-bats, and, if possible, get on base, and help the team win. I'm happy to scratch it off the list."
Naturally, 69 of his 134 bombs have come at home at Nationals Park ... but Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park ranks No. 1 in Bryce's visiting bombs with 12. So that's the National League. As for the American League? Seven ballparks down, eight to go. (Mearns and Cohen - mlb.com)
August 7, 2017: Hours before Trout collected his 1,000th career hit on his 26th birthday in the Angels’ 6-2 loss to the Orioles, Harper deposited a fourth-inning curveball from Odrisamer Despaigne 400-plus feet into the right field seats for his 150th career home run.
Two oft-linked superstars reaching a pair of arbitrary milestones on opposite coasts on the same day isn’t all that surprising, but then there’s this strange coincidence: Harper’s home run on August 7 came at the age of 24 years, 295 days. Trout was the exact same age, give or take a few hours, when he hit his 150th home run on May 28 of last season.
April 2, 2018: Bryce's performance marked the fifth game in his career that Harper has walked four times. To put it in perspective, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Willie Mays only had four such games in their entire careers.
- April 2018: Harper posted the highest career OPS in April of any player in Major League history.
Harper's career OPS in April was 1.097, ahead of Babe Ruth's 1.089 and Ted Williams 1.088, according to Elias.
September 18, 2018: Bryce walked in each of his five plate appearances, falling one short of the Major League record he tied against the Cubs in 2016. It is still a season-high for Harper, who leads the Majors in walks (123), including a league-leading 27 in September.
September 25, 2018: Bryce scored his 100th run on the season to go along with 129 walks and 100 RBI on the year, making him the seventh player since 2014 to reach triple digits in each category.
April 19, 2019: Bryce collected his first career 5-hit game. It was for the Phillies against the Rockies.
July 3, 2019: Bryce motioned for the baseball as he rounded second base in the sixth inning at SunTrust Park. Fortunately for him, the Braves fan who caught his solo home run to left field tossed the ball back onto the field. He probably did not realize that it was Harper’s 1,000th career hit and 200th career home run, making Harper the first player in baseball history to have two milestone hits in the same at-bat.
“I was very lucky that they like me out there,” Harper said following a 9-2 loss to the Braves.
Harper said that the loss would not spoil his milestone moments.
“No, I’ll enjoy it,” he said. “Of course, they beat us, and that’s part of the game. I’m excited about it. It’s a pretty cool moment. Of course, it’s not where I want to end up, not where I want to be. I’ve got a lot of goals and dreams that I want to accomplish, and this is just part of it.”
Sept. 4, 2019: Harper became the first Phillies player to have 30 homers and 100 RBI in a season since Ryan Howard had 33 homers and 116 RBI in 2011. Harper is the first Phils outfielder to hit those marks since Pat Burrell had 32 homers and 117 RBI in 2005.
Harper (26 years old), Howard (26) in 2006, Burrell (25) in 2002, and Scott Rolen (23) in 1998 are the only Phillies players since 1978 to reach the 30-100 mark before their age-27 seasons.
August 8, 2021: Bryce hit his 20th home run of the 2021 season, marking the eighth time in his career he has reached 20 homers. Giancarlo Stanton (9), Mike Trout (8), Miguel Cabrera (8) and Albert Pujols (8) are the only other active players who have reached eight or more 20-homer campaigns by their age-28 season.
Oct 3, 2021: It is a fear of Phillies fans everywhere. The Phillies are wasting the best years of Bryce Harper’s career.
Harper doubled and walked in the 5-4 loss to Miami in the season finale at loanDepot park. It completed one of the best individual seasons in Phillies history. Harper slashed .309/.429/.615 with 42 doubles, one triple, 35 home runs, 84 RBIs, 101 runs, 100 walks, 13 stolen bases and a 1.044 OPS.
He is only the fourth outfielder in baseball history to have at least 100 runs, 100 walks, 40 doubles and 35 home runs in a season, joining Babe Ruth (1921, 1923), Stan Musial (1949) and Barry Bonds (1998). (T Zolecki - MLB.com - Oct 3, 2021)
MLB announced that Harper won the NL’s Hank Aaron Award for most outstanding regular-season offensive performer in 2021. Harper, a week earlier, won the Players Choice Award for NL Outstanding Player, which is a players-only vote. it is Harper's second career Hank Aaron award.
The Hank Aaron Award is voted on by fans, as well as a special panel of Hall of Fame players that includes Chipper Jones, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Johnny Bench, Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr. and Robin Yount. (T Zolecxki - MLB.com - Nov 9, 2021)
2021 Silver Slugger Award - Outfield (Second Win)
Leading the Majors in OPS (1.044), Harper hit 35 dingers and was one of two qualifying players (Vlad Jr. was the other) to record a .300 average, .400 on-base percentage and .600 slugging percentage. He’s the first Phillies outfielder to win a Silver Slugger since Bobby Abreu in 2004.
March 31, 2022: Bryce has two swings. He's had them for a while now. And they're both dangerous. Here's how Harper used his dual approach to become an MVP slugger for the second time.
First, there's the signature Harper swing, with his gradual stride toward the pitcher that mirrors the pitcher's own stride toward him, his front leg in the air and knee hooking in toward his body as the bat ticks over his head and his hack begins.
Then there's his quicker, toe-tap swing—his front toe tapping the ground as the pitcher drives toward the plate, then a short, low-to-the-ground step as he completes the swing. It's an alternative timing mechanism that over the years has become as essential a part of Harper's hitting style as his leg kick.
The path of the bat stays consistent once he gets into the swing, but the way Harper drives toward the ball changes. It's interesting to watch how he crushes balls with both variations. And he's already doing that in the new season, with home runs via both the leg kick and toe tap in Spring Training.
He closed out the season with one final toe-tap home run on Oct. 1. Harper will probably employ the two swings in concert again in 2022, as he feels better with one or the other. What matters most is this: They're both MVP swings. (D Adler - MLB.com - March 31, 2022)
- Oct 24, 2022: Bryce's heroics earned him NLCS MVP after he helped the Phillies beat the Padres four games to one and advance to the World Series.
- Bryce displayed solid tools behind the plate. His receiving skills were good, as are his hands and agility. He moves around well back there.
Harper has an exceptionally strong arm, consistently posting glove-to-glove times of 1.85–1.95 seconds when he was a catcher. His throws have terrific velocity and are on a straight line to second base.
And he could pick off runners from his knees. He has been clocked off the mound at 96 mph. Because his throws are also accurate, his outfield arm gives him a second 80 tool, in addition to the 80 he gets for his power.
In the outfield, he has the arm for right field. He is working at taking more consistent jumps and routes to the ball. He has slightly above average speed.
Bryce is learning to stay under control when he throws. Entering 2013 spring training, it was no secret that Harper needs to learn to hit the cutoff man more often, something he worked on in spring drills a lot. (Spring 2013)
- Harper's hustle to back up plays in the outfield is impressive.
In 2011, Bryce played all three outfield positions. He learned the importance of staying closed and using his legs when he throws, and he racked up seven assists in just 37 Double-A games while seeing his first action in left field.
One reason for shifting Harper from left to right field in 2015, swapping places with Jayson Werth, was Harper's powerful right arm. The ultra-confident 22-year-old certainly doesn't mind if opponents want to test him.
"Of course you want to get that out," Harper said. "That's huge. But if I can leave [the runner] at first base, that's something that is going to help us out. But if he goes, he's out. There's no doubt in my mind he's out. We'll see that this year, if guys are going to do that. Time will tell. We'll see."
Harper's ability to nip potential doubles in the bud is crucial. When the Mets' Lucas Duda ripped a liner to right, Harper caught a break when the ball one-hopped the wall near the corner and caromed right back to him, and he capitalized with a one-hop rocket of his own, right to second base. Duda, not exactly fleet of foot, never had a chance and was forced out on the next play.
Two innings later, David Wright hit a liner over the head of second baseman Dan Uggla and into the gap. Harper raced over and cut if off in front of the warning track, then fired a strike to the right side of second. Wright slammed on the brakes and retreated to first, then was doubled off when Duda lined out to the mound.
"It's great for our team to have him out there," manager Matt Williams said, "and potentially be able to stop those guys going from first to third and have it in the back of the opposing team's mind that, 'Hey, listen, he's out there,' and they think twice about it." (Simon - mlb.com - 4/9/15)
August 2015: After Buster Posey knocked a one-out double, Hunter Pence singled to right field. With the Giants looking to add on to a small lead, Posey was waved around third base. But Harper's throw, tracked at 91.3 miles an hour by Statcast, nailed Posey at the plate.
It was Harper's fifth-fastest recorded throw and fifth assist during the 2015 season. According to Statcast, Posey went from second to home in 7.9 seconds, which wasn't fast enough with the Nationals' superstar in right. (Ladson - mlb.com - 8/13/15)
May 9, 2017: Bryce fired his strongest throw of the Statcast Era to stop the would-be winning run from scoring. It was in the 11th inning of a 5-4, 12-inning Nationals loss to the O's at Oriole Park. J.J. Hardy was trying to score from second on a two-out single by Caleb Joseph off Jacob Turner, but Harper delivered a 99.7 mph rocket to catcher Matt Wieters, who applied the tag for the final out of the inning.
"That's what stars do," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "He had a good jump. He got a good ball to throw with, and he threw it on the money. He executed perfectly." (Collier - mlb.com)
Bryce lacks quick first step speed, but it is above average. He runs well under way. He rates as a 55 or 60 on the 20–80 scouting scale.
He is an aggressive baserunner, taking the extra base. He always goes all-out, so his good speed plays up. He has an intense nature on the bases (and on defense).
On May 6, 2012: Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels intentionally hit Harper with a pitch, and admitted it. And Bryce was not upset.
"I'm not mad at all," Harper said. "He is a great guy, great pitcher, he knows how to pitch, he is an All-Star. It's all good. Hamels threw a good game tonight. You have to give all the props to him. He came out there, he threw the ball well. There is nothing we can do about it."
After getting drilled, Harper advanced to third on a single by Jayson Werth. Harper was then able to pay Hamels back by stealing home while the pitcher tried to pick off Werth at first base. Harper is the second player in Nationals history to steal home, and the first to do so on a straight steal. Ian Desmond stole home as part of a double steal on April 20, 2011, against the Cardinals.
Before Bryce did it, the last swipe of home by a teenager occurred 48 years before, when Angels catcher Ed "Spanky" Kirkpatrick stole home against the Kansas City Athletics.
In 2015, Bryce stole 6 bases in 153 games. Then he met Davey Lopes. Now in 2016, with the help of the former Dodgers speedster-turned Nationals first-base coach, Harper has swiped a National League-best three bases in five games.
"It's just the confidence he instills in the guys," Harper said of Lopes during Spring Training 2016. "Every single time you get on base, if you get a good jump and you steal a bag, or even if you get thrown out, it's always, 'Keep going.'" (Putterman - MLB.com - 4/12/16)
- In April 2017, Harper set the MLB record for runs scored in April. He scored four times in a 23-5 victory over the Mets, increasing his April total to 32 and surpassing the Major League record of 29 set by Larry Walker in 1997.
August 18, 2011: Harper strained his right hamstring while running from first to third on Harrisburg Senator teammate Archie Gilbert's double. Harper had to be helped off the field. With two weeks left in the season, his season was over.
May 13, 2013: Harper left the field after crashing into the right-field wall. He was listed as day to day with a jammed left shoulder and a cut under his chin that required 11 stitches.
Bryce is a hustler, and that's one of the many things to love about him. He doesn't hesitate or meditate or otherwise complicate a sport that often rewards instinct, and Harper's instincts are wildly and often wondrously aggressive.
Of course, it is Harper's infectious zeal that also serves to ruffle some feathers—sometimes even his own. After all, he certainly looked ruffled after his intimate moment with the out-of-town scoreboard at Dodger Stadium.
Chasing an A.J. Ellis fly ball, Harper ran smack-dab into the chain-link fencing in front of the video board, a la Wile E. Coyote. They asked Harper, once the stars had stopped spinning around his head, if he would do it any differently now that he knew the outcome. If he'd hang back and play the ball off the wall—heck, the Nats were up, 6-0, at the time—rather than run it down.
"I'm going to play this game the rest of my life and try to play as hard as I can," Harper replied. "That's my life being on the line, trying to kill myself on the field for my team, trying to win the World Series. People can laugh about it all they want, but at the end of the day, I'm going to look at myself at the mirror and say, 'I played this game as hard as I could.'" (Anthony Castrovince-MLB.com-5/16/13)
May 27-July 1, 2013: Harper was on the D.L. with bursitis in his left knee. The knee had bothered him since he crashed into the wall in a May 13 game at the Dodgers.
An MRI showed no structural or cartilage damage. It was just soft tissue in the bursar that was inflamed. He received cortisone and PRP injections to help with the recovery. The cortisone reduces the inflammation in the knee, while the PRP—a mixture of his own white blood cells spun down and concentrated—reduces the risk of infection.
October 23, 2013: Harper underwent successful surgery to repair the bursa in his left knee. Harper hurt the knee on May 13, when he slammed into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium. The procedure was performed by Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colorado. Harper will resume workouts in four to six weeks and was expected to be ready for spring training in 2014.
April 27-June 30, 2014: Bryce was on the D.L. with a sprained left thumb. He hurt his hand with a head-first slide into third base after hitting a third-inning, bases-loaded triple in Washington's 11-1 victory. He stayed in the game for an inning before he was replaced.
"It's part of baseball. You slide into the bag and sometimes you get your fingers," Harper said. "It's a bummer, but hopefully I'll be back soon."
An MRI showed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb that would sideline him. He underwent surgery to repair the torn ligament.
Aug 13-Sept 26, 2017: Harper was on the DL with a hyperextended left knee. The Nationals announced that Harper was found to have a significant bone bruise, but no tendon or bone damage.
- March 15, 2019: The Phillies had a scare when Harper was plunked on the right foot by a 96 mph fastball from Blue Jays righthander Trent Thornton. Harper went to the ground in obvious pain, though he proceeded to get up and walk off the field gingerly. After initial X-rays at ballpark were negative, Harper left the stadium to get more detailed X-rays.
“Right now, Bryce has a right foot contusion, and we’re going to go in and meet with the trainers,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Right now, we don’t have reason for major concern, but obviously we want to go inside and take a look first.”
Sept 6, 2019: Harper left the 5-4 loss against the Mets at Citi Field in the third inning with a right hand contusion after he was hit by a pitch. The Phillies later announced X-rays on Harper's hand were negative, and Harper said post-game that no other tests were currently scheduled.
“I’m definitely sore. That’s about it,” Harper, who had his hand wrapped, said when asked how he felt after the game. “Anytime it squares you up a little bit, it’s a little scary. So, you know, definitely kinda just wanted to get on first and keep the game going. But yeah, it wasn’t good,” he said.
April 28, 2021: Harper was forced to exit a game after being hit in the face by a pitch from Cardinals reliever Génesis Cabrera at Busch Stadium. A 96.9-mph sinker by Cabrera beaned Harper directly in the face on the first pitch of the inning.
After leaving the game under his own power, Harper was immediately taken to a hospital to undergo testing, including a CT scan. On his Instagram feed, Harper said that “everything feels good.” “Everything came back good, the CT, all of that kind of stuff," Harper said. "The face is still there, so we are all good. See you all soon.”
April 30, 2021: A CT scan at the hospital revealed he was OK. Harper suffered no broken bones or even a concussion. Harper's left wrist was sore from the ball’s ricochet off his face.
“It kind of hit me in that perfect spot, right on the bone and tendon area there,” he said.
May 2, 2021: Harper's left wrist remains sore, but the Phillies have no plans to place him on the injured list.
Harper could not play in in 4-3 victory over the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park because of lingering pain in his wrist. Harper injured it in St. Louis, after a fastball struck him on the face and deflected off his arm. Harper returned to the lineup against the Mets, but he aggravated the wrist after landing on it when he tried to hold up while rounding third base in the sixth inning.
May 5, 2021: Harper continues to improve. He remained out of the lineup for the sixth time in seven days because of the bruised left wrist.
“He’s definitely making progress,” Girardi said. “He had some swelling. It was down yesterday, the swelling, which I was pleased with.”
May 23-June 5, 2021: Harper was on the IL with left forearm contusion. Harper suffered the injury on April 28, when a 97-mph fastball struck his face and ricocheted onto his wrist. The Phillies are calling this a bruised forearm, although Harper and Joe Girardi have referred to it as a bruised left wrist.
April 18, 2022: Harper’s right elbow is bothering him. He was the Phillies’ designated hitter for a second consecutive game against the Rockies at Coors Field because of what Joe Girardi called “a little irritation, a little tendinitis” in his throwing elbow.
April 26, 2022: “It just felt achy,” Harper said post-game after playing catch from a short distance for only a few minutes. Harper has not played right field since April 16 because of a mild strain in the flexor tendon in his right elbow. He tested the elbow for the first time. Harper does not feel discomfort while hitting, so he has served as the DH.
May 4, 2022: Harper’s strained right elbow needs more time to heal.
“We’re still kind of sit and wait,” Harper said. “That’s about it. It’s pretty much the same report that we had last time. Just try to see day by day when we can throw again. I’m just not there yet.”
The injury does not affect Harper when he swings, so he will continue to DH for the foreseeable future.
May 18, 2022: Harper received a PRP injection into his right elbow in Los Angeles, which he hopes will heal the small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament. But Phillies manager Joe Girardi said the doctor who administered Harper’s injection has recommended Harper not throw for six weeks.
June 1, 2022: Bryce was out of the starting lineup for the game against the Giants due to right forearm soreness. Harper has been serving as the designated hitter for the Phillies while he recovers from a slight tear in his right UCL, which has prevented him from playing the outfield. He was considered day-to-day.
June 25-Aug 26, 2022: Harper will be sidelined indefinitely with a broken left thumb after he was hit by a pitch from Blake Snell. It required surgery to repair.
July 25, 2022: Bryce hoped to have three pins removed from his fractured left thumb. But, it didn't happen.
“Everything’s on the right path, everything’s going good,” Harper said at Citizens Bank Park. “It’s just not where we want it to be at this point to be able to pull the pins and be successful with it. So hopefully another week will get us there, but right now, we're just not there yet. The doctor said we'll check back in a week and see where we're at. Hopefully, we'll be able to pull them [soon] and get ready to go.”
Aug 9, 2022: Harper had the pins removed from his left thumb on Aug. 1. He spent the first few days hitting off a practice tee. He was also lightly throwing the baseball from 45 feet, but interim manager Rob Thomson said that the club has backed off Harper's throwing program due to some stiffness in the elbow injury, meaning it's possible that Harper will not play in the field again this season.
- Nov. 23, 2022: Harper underwent surgery on his right elbow. Harper had Tommy John surgery to repair the torn UCL in Los Angeles. It went well, sources said. It was relatively encouraging news considering the uncertainty entering the day. Nobody knew exactly what orthopedist Neal ElAttrache might find once Harper got on the operating table.
Harper could be hitting competitively in games sometime in May. The Phillies said in a press release, however, that they expect Harper to return as a DH by the All-Star break, which is July 10-13. They also said Harper could return to play right field before the end of the season.