WASHINGTON – The talent. The style of play. The swagger. The showmanship. The fame. The money.
These are the reasons that Bryce Harper hears it from fans wherever he goes.
Usually Harper lets it roll off his back. After all, he’s heard it since he was 16, when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
But sometimes ignoring all the things that fans say is difficult.
This was one of those times.
Harper on Wednesday night was back in right field at Nationals Park, his home for seven seasons as a member of the Washington Nationals. Only he was wearing the uniform of the Philadelphia Phillies, the team with which he signed a 13-year, $330 million free-agent contract in March.
Though this was not his first trip back to Washington in a Phillies uniform, fans in the right-field seats were particularly nasty this time, Harper said. He even turned around and responded to them in the eighth inning.
“They were fine all game talking about myself and things like that,” he said. “I mean, I get it everywhere I go. It’s nothing new, but the last inning – it’s just not right. It’s just not right.”
Harper declined to say where the fans crossed the line, but he did vent some frustration.
“That’s part of sports,” he said. “I guess that’s what it is nowadays. Like I said the whole time, I’ve got 60,000 fans up in Philly that appreciate me as a player and appreciate me as an individual and my family, as well. I owe a lot to those people up there in Philly because they show up for me every single night and they are there to cheer us on and boo us and keep us going as a team and as individuals as well and I’m looking forward to the next 12 years. Can’t wait.”
Harper’s situation isn’t all that different from Jayson Werth. He played on a World Series-winning team in Philadelphia, signed a big, free-agent deal with Washington and was booed loudly whenever he returned to Philadelphia.
“I feel like that everywhere I go,” Harper said. “I just want to play. That’s how I’ve always been. Of course, there have been times I haven’t ran out baseballs and things like that. I’ve slacked and things. That’s part of it. But every single night I come out here, my team deserves that, my city – Philadelphia – deserves that and the great fan base we have up there.
“Like I said, it’s part of sports and that’s how it is nowadays. Individually you go out there and don’t really worry about what they’re saying. But there are times – it’s just not good and just not right. Everybody has a platform now whether it’s Twitter, Instagram or in the stands. They kind of say whatever they want and that’s just how it is. You kind of have to live with it. You see it in the NBA, you see it in the NFL and you see it here now and I guess it is just part of sports now.”
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