Regardless of how the Bryce Harper sweepstakes shake out this offseason, here’s a story that you’re likely to hear about for the rest of the former National League MVP’s career.
According to Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports, the six-time All-Star told some in his inner-circle that in terms of a place to live, Philadelphia wouldn’t be his first choice:
Players always seem to like Philly better after living there; it doesn’t seem very glamorous to visiting players, and word is, Harper also told friends Philly wasn’t his first choice in terms of city.
Here’s a few caveats before doing a deep dive on this story: A) Heyman says that Harper – who wears No. 34 because of his father’s love for Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle, who wore No. 7, the sum of three and four – has told some close to him that he would enjoy playing for the Yankees, though it’s unclear how realistic that is after the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton last offseason; B) The Athletic‘s Jayson Stark noted last week that Harper’s first choice may be to stay with the Washington Nationals, with ESPN‘s Buster Olney adding that many executives in the sport think that will ultimately happen; C) Most people without a connection to Philadelphia wouldn’t call it their No. 1 destination to move to. It’s not necessarily a dis, it just is what it is.
Harper didn’t get off to a great start with Phillies fans. After Cole Hamels was suspended for admitting to throwing at Harper during a May 2012 game, Harper, then a rookie, said ahead of his next trip to Citizens Bank Park that “hopefully they don’t throw batteries at me.” Harper, with a rather impressive knowledge of history, was referring to fans throwing batteries at J.D. Drew when he made his first trip to Veterans Stadium in 1999 after electing not to sign with the Phillies, who selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1997 MLB Draft.
However, in recent years, the relationship has thawed. Part of that has to do with the fact that Harper – who has more career home runs at Citizens Bank Park than any other opposing stadium – has been on the radar of Phillies fans for years. Sure, in the meantime he’s played for a division rival, but for much of his career, the Phillies have floundered at the bottom of the National League East. No longer a teenager, he also told Ryan Lawrence, writing for Philly Voice, that he loved playing in Citizens Bank Park in front of Phillies fans, essentially cancelling out any swipe he may have made at Phillies fans when he was 19.
Do remember, Roy Oswalt had to be talked into accepting a trade to Philadelphia in the summer of 2010. Before the Eagles ultimately signed Byron Maxwell to a six-year/$63 million free-agent contract in March of 2015, there were rumors that Maxwell hoped to sign in the south because of year-round warm weather. He changed his mind quickly when the Eagles offered him $25 million guaranteed.
In any moment of honesty, most Philadelphians would tell you they get sick of extremely humid summers and brutally cold winters. Harper is from Las Vegas, which, like New York, objectively has a better nightlife than Philadelphia. Washington, D.C. will always have a special place in his heart because that’s where he spent the first seven seasons of his career. None of this is to say Philadelphia isn’t a place that Harper could learn to love, especially if the Phillies promise to make Harper’s wallet fatter than any other potential suitor.
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