Sometimes it’s crazy how things work out. Seven weeks ago, the Phillies were getting ready to report to spring training. Maikel Franco wasn’t sure how long he’d last in camp because there was still a chance the Phillies would sign Manny Machado. Had that happened, Franco would have been traded and the Phillies would have backed off on Bryce Harper because their offseason star hunt would have been complete.
In other words, all of the excitement that occurred Saturday at Citizens Bank Park never would have happened.
“That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard it here,” Rhys Hoskins said of the eruption that Harper’s first homer as a Phillie caused. “And I think there’s more in there. We’re in March. What happens when we’re in September and October? It’s going to be fun — fun to be a part of.”
Harper’s 465-foot bomb into the second deck above right-center was one of three homers the Phillies clubbed en route to an 8-6 win over the Braves and a 2-0 start to the season. Franco hit his second in as many games (he has two straight three-RBI games) and J.T. Realmuto clubbed his first as a Phillie. After a productive winter that saw them add new talents in the No. 1, 2, 3 and 5 spots in the batting order, the Phillies now go eight deep in their lineup. Thirteen of the 18 runs they have scored in two games have come via the home run ball.
Harper’s home run was what the fans — a sellout crowd of 44,597 — came to see. The ball struck a woman from Tennessee — a Braves fan who was unharmed — and made it back to the Phillies’ clubhouse. Harper was happy to get the souvenir. It was, after all, his first hit with the Phillies.
“Definitely one of the cooler homers I've ever hit,” he said. “Just the fan base, just the stadium, the electricity we had in this place, it all came together. The Realmuto homer, the Franco homer, Rhys' homer the other day — this place is electrifying and our clubhouse, our dugout, everybody's pulling for each other. What a great moment for everybody.”
Harper’s homer came off Jesse Biddle, the former Phillies’ first-round draft pick now with the Braves. Harper and Biddle go way back. They played together in USA Baseball programs as teenagers. Before the homer, Harper had been 0 for 5 with four strikeouts against Biddle in his career.
The ball came off Harper’s bat like a missile at 114 mph. Hoskins had a front row seat in the on-deck circle.
“I just kind of had my mouth open, jaw dropped,” he said. “It was kind of, ‘Wow.’ I don’t think you could write it any better.”
Or hit it any better.
Harper is a bat junkie, always picking up his teammates’ bats and seeing how they feel. He used one of Nick Williams’ bats for the home run.
After rounding the bases, Harper and teammates went through a series of playful handshakes. He then was lured out of the dugout for a curtain call. He rose to the top step, thrust his arms skyward and shouted …
“Let’s go with something else in between it,” he said with a laugh. “Usually, when I go up there I’m pretty fired up. Just seeing the fans fired up for us as a team, they're coming out and supporting us the past two games, I just want to share that moment with them. I was pretty fired up. I thought they were as well.”
Oh, they were. And they’ll be fired up again Sunday night when the new and improved Phillies look for a sweep of the Braves and a little early-season statement on national TV.
“It’s the third game of the season and you have to take them one at a time,” Harper said. “But it’s always fun when all eyes are on you in the baseball world. I think as a team we’re really looking forward to it. I think a lot of people are going to be watching March Madness — go Duke — but I hope everybody is going to be watching us, as well.”
So far, it’s been a pretty good show.
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