According to Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga, Bryce Harper wanted to come back to Washington, D.C., and as late as January 2019, he thought he would return to the nation’s capital for an eighth season with the organization that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2010.
It didn’t work out that way, of course.
Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in early March, agreeing to an opt-out-free, 13-year/$330M deal which, effectively, makes him a Phillie for life.
Four games into the second stage of his big league career, however, the 26-year-old is in Nationals Park once again.
What sort of reception will he receive from a fanbase that supported him during the first seven years of his career?
“I don’t know what kind of reception he’s going to get,” Nats’ closer Sean Doolittle said on Sunday afternoon, following the Nationals’ first win of the season.
“He did a lot for this city. He did a lot for this organization. I know there’s people — they wanted him back, fans wanted him back, and he was such a good part of this team and this city, so I don’t know. It’s going to make for a really fun atmosphere, so it will be fun.”
“Hopefully a happy one,” Nationals’ shortstop Trea Turner, Harper’s teammate from 2015-18, said when he was too was asked what sort of reception he thought Harper would receive.
“I haven’t talked to him since he signed, but hopefully the fans go crazy for him because he did a lot for us here and he had a good career here, and now we’ve got to get him out, so it begins I guess.”
The man who will most directly be charged with trying to get Harper out will be starter Max Scherzer, who gets the nod in the first of two with the Phillies tonight.
Harper and Scherzer have never faced one another as batter and hitter in the regular season, and as big a game as this is in terms of drama, the three-time Cy Young award-winner said this weekend that it’s just the first of many matchups to come now that the former Nationals’ outfielder suits up for a divisional rival.
“That’s kind of the way I see it,” Scherzer said on Sunday, as he prepared for his second start of the 2019 campaign.
“He’s signed there forever, basically,” Scherzer added. “Or at least forever in my career.
“We’re going to be facing each other a lot. This is just the first. Whatever happens on Tuesday, it’s going to be the course of a career of facing him. This is just round one.”
It’s going to be fun though.
“Look, the NL East is loaded,” Scherzer told reporters. “Every single game’s going to matter and this one is just as important. That’s what makes this fun. They have a great team over there. And it’s going to take everything out of our play to try to beat them. Nothing’s new.”
Well, Harper in a Phillies uniform is new.
“I guess it will be weird to see Bryce because we’ve only seen him in a Nats uniform,” the Nationals’ ace said.
“So, obviously that’s weird. This is baseball. We’re so used to guys changing teams all the time. For us players, it doesn’t really faze us too much to see guys in new uniforms.
“As for the fans, that’s the fans. They’ll do what they feel is appropriate.”
What does Davey Martinez, who bonded with Harper in their year together in 2018, think about the outfielder coming back to D.C. so soon?
“I mean, that’s still two days away,” Martinez said on Sunday. “I haven’t really given it much thought, honestly, to be honest with you. I know he’s coming, but it’s going to be exciting for sure, and of course I’ll say hello to him, but then again, he plays on a different team now, so we’re going to try to win games.”