Bryce Harper was grabbing a bat before Mondays game, ready for batting practice, when a Citizens Bank Park employee turned to him and said, you know, youre going to be one that Philly fans hate for a long time. The 19-year-old phenom laughed and turned to say, I hope so, before running out to take some swings.
Bryce Harper cant help the perception of him around the league, an assumption by opposing fans and even some players that he is some sort of bad guy. He was even booed in Los Angeles in his first professional game, unprecedented in todays world of sports. LeBron James and Alex Ovechkin get booed on the road all the time, but neither got it in their rookie years.
Harper seems to accept the role, however, perhaps a result of him being booed when he was in the minors. But Philadelphia Phillies fans are different than, say, those of the Hickory Crawdads. The Nats outfielder was booed each time he stepped to the plate on Monday, each time he made a defensive play, and when he stole a base in the fourth inning.
When Im walking to the plate Im not really thinking about the boos, Im just trying to think about what Im going to do this at-bat. But you can still hear everything, it really echoes out there, he said.
Harper played his first game at Citizens Bank Park in Philly on Monday, a unique experience for any professional athlete. Most opposing players are booed, but to be their central focus must be a different experience.
It is a good ballpark to play in and it gets really loud. Even if they dont have that many people in the stands it gets very loud. I think if they had had a packed house it would get a little louder, he said.
The Phillies crowd was an announced sellout but was clearly affected by the rainy weather. Harper though will have plenty of opportunities to hear them in full force as he continues his career.