Fans of the Washington Nationals are preparing a not-so-welcome reaction to Bryce Harper’s first game back in DC with the Phillies on Tuesday night.
Bryce Harper will have a different look when he takes his spot in right field at Nationals Park on Tuesday night. Instead of the familiar No. 34 colors of the Washington Nationals, Harper will be in the red and grey No. 3 road uniform of the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. Nationals fans aren’t going to let him forget it, either.
Harper returns to Washington for the first time tonight as a member of the Phillies. The 26-year-old outfielder spent the first seven years of his career with the Nationals, hitting .279 with 184 home runs and 521 RBI in 927 games. But he rejected the Nationals’ $300 million offer in September, eventually signing a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies in March. He left Washington ranking sixth all-time in franchise history in home runs, eighth in RBI and seventh in WAR.
He got a standing ovation (and some boos) from his new Phillies faithful when he made his debut at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, but his reception tonight won’t be as welcoming. A taste of what awaits him came on Monday.
Washington’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, tweeted a picture of Harper dressed as infamous traitor Benedict Arnold before quickly deleting it. The hosts of DC news station FOX5 also hung a pinata with Harper’s likeness in the studio and took turns whacking away at it.
Harper, though, chooses to remember all the good times he had in Washington. The four division titles he won there. The numerous standing ovations he got after delivering a big home run. Harper posted an emotional message on his Instagram page on Tuesday morning, showing himself in the familiar Nationals uniform with the stars and stripes armband, saluting the fans and the city he called home from the time he was 19 years old.
“If you would have told me 5 years ago I would be walking into Nationals Park as an opposing player, I would’ve told you that you were crazy,” Harper wrote. “Five years later, I’m doing just that. My first base hit. My first home run. And, of course, my first standing ovation. Nationals fans delivered that first ovation.”
“When I run on the field tonight I am sure to hear some boos, but I will always remember the cheers and the screams that are still with me right now, as I start my new chapter. So for that, DC, THANK YOU.”
Harper has made himself right at home in Philadelphia. In three games with his new club, he’s hit two home runs as the Phillies remain MLB’s only undefeated team this season. He showed up for his first game wearing a t-shirt depicting Philadelphia mascots Gritty and the Philly Phanatic. He wore Philly Phanatic shoes onto the field (the Phanatic returned the favor). He announced he and his wife, Kayla, are expecting their first child in front of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
He doesn’t seem to be missing Washington, but Washington fans sure seem like they miss him. The anger they’ll feel in seeing him in a Phillies uniform on Tuesday night will be vented through loud boos, showing he might be gone but he’s still very much on their minds.
But for Harper, those boos won’t remove the memory of all the times these same fans cheered him. Nationals fans will just have to get used to him in Phillies colors. After all, they have 13 more years of it.