If Bryce Harper wanted to make a great first impression on Philadelphia, he sure did that during his introductory press conference Saturday.
Harper, for the first seven seasons of his career, wore No. 34 with the Washington Nationals. That number in Philadelphia is currently iced, because it belonged to the late Roy Halladay, who will be posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. There was some thought about whether Harper, a six-time All-Star, would ask to wear the number. He said Saturday, it’s not something he considered.
“Of course, I wore No. 34, but I thought Roy Halladay should be the last one to wear it,” Harper said during his introductory press conference at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. “He’s someone in this game that is greater than a lot of guys who have ever played it. [He’s a] Hall of Famer…somebody that played the game the right way…was a great person. [He was] one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met, being able to play across from him in 2012. For me, it’s Roy Halladay, he’s 34, he’s what represents that number in Philly.”
The interesting dynamic here is that when the Phillies acquired Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays in December of 2009, he had to change his number. In his 12 seasons north of the border, Halladay wore No. 32, a number the Blue Jays have since retired. Halladay couldn’t wear No. 32 with the Phillies, because the club had retired it to honor Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. While wearing No. 34 in Philadelphia, he cemented himself as a Hall of Famer. Harper now has a chance, while wearing No. 3, his new number, to cement himself as a Hall of Famer in Philadelphia.
The reason that Harper wore No. 34 is that three plus four equals seven, and No. 7 was the number that Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle wore during his career with the New York Yankees. Halladay’s dad, Ron, was a big fan of the 20-time All-Star, so there was some thought Harper would switch to No. 7 in Philadelphia. But that number currently belongs to Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, and Harper says he wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking one of his new teammates to switch numbers for his convenience.
So he arrived at No. 3, the number that both his brother and dad wore during their respective high school baseball careers. For someone that talked about family so much during his introductory press conference, it’s no surprise that Harper dug deep into his family roots to select his next number.