After nearly a year of toying with fans as to which team he would play for in the 2019 season, former free agent Bryce Harper chose to take a 13-year $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Both teams being part of the National League meant the teams were bound to play one another soon enough, but because the Phillies are division rivals of the Washington Nationals, Harper had to return to DC for the fourth game of the new season.
Preparing for the icy response to his return, Harper posted a heartfelt message on Instagram to say how much he loved playing in Washington. He wrote “You, Nationals fans, made me one of your own for the entire time I was a part of the Nationals organization. I’m so blessed to have been able to play for a fan base that cared so much about our team each and every night. You will always hold a special place in my heart no matter what. I look forward to continuing Harpers Heroes with LLS in the DMV as well as making sure the legacy fields bearing my name are the best youth fields in town!”
But D.C. fans didn’t care too much for his words. Before the game started, a short video tribute played for Harper which was met with so many boos, the right fielder remained in the dugout. Normally, when there’s a “thank you” video played, the player comes out into the field, tips his hat to the fans before the game gets underway. This did not happen.
When Harper stepped up to the plate to face All-Star pitcher Max Scherzer, the boos were loud.
In case Harper wouldn’t be able to hear the boos, fans exchanged their normal Nationals gear, or perhaps turned their former #34 jersey’s inside out and wrote messages on their tees for their former MVP. A group of guys standing in a line spelled out “TRAITOR,” while another’s fans shirt merely said, “I don’t like Bryce Harper,” while one edited his jersey to read “HarPopop”.
In a since deleted tweet, the mayor of D.C., Muriel Bowser, tweeted a photo of Harper depicted as Benedict Arnold. The residents of D.C. are not quick to forgive Harper, who declined the Nationals’ offer of a 10-year $300 million contract. Even the Nationals official twitter handle took their shot, referencing Ariana Grande’s hit break-up song.
So, when the six-time All-Star struck out in his first at-bat, the cheers bellowed throughout the stadium. Harper also struck out at his second at bat against Scherzer.
However, it was Harper and the Phillies having the last laugh. He crushed a homer in his final at-bat, and they defeated the Nationals 8-2.
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