Phillies megastar Bryce Harper has been filling his unexpected free time, like many across the country, by playing video games.
With baseball on pause, Harper has been streaming himself playing Fortnite on Twitch almost daily during May, and it seems the 27-year-old sees a future in the world of gaming - so much so that he's making it a part of his business world.
Harper has reportedly inked a joint deal with his agent Scott Boras's Boras Marketing, and Loaded, one of the top gaming management companies, to "build out [Harper's] gaming presence", according to Sports Business Daily's Adam Stern.
It's an extremely interesting move from a forward-thinking star, and shows Harper has his sights set not just on the present but the future of sports.
Loaded represents some of the biggest crossover names in gaming, including Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, the biggest name in Fortnite streaming and one of the world's most popular mainstream esports athletes, and Michael "Shroud" Grzesiek, best known for his lengthy CS:GO career.
Harper has racked up 14,000 followers on Twitch since his first stream on May 1, streaming 12 times in an 18-day span.
"Baseball will always be my number one priority," Harper said in a release Tuesday, "but gaming gives me a fun competitive outlet to uniquely connect with friends, peers and fans. This partnership will help further fuel my passion for gaming, allowing for opportunities to grow my community and streaming presence."
Loaded co-founder and SVP of talent Brandon Freytag called Harper a "smart dude" looking to broaden his audience, per the Esports Observer:
In baseball, he’s probably captured a good portion of the enthusiasts, whereas in the gaming world, there’s not a lot of people that know Bryce especially if they don’t watch baseball. Our playbook is to initially get him set up and comfortable with streaming [...] and certainly working with Boras on endemic sponsorships within the tech world.
Unless something changes dramatically, Harper isn't ever going to be one of the world's best esports athletes in the way that he is one of the best baseball players. Former Eagles running back Jay Ajayi showed us earlier this year that the transition from "pro athlete who games" to "pro esports athlete" can be brutal.
But Harper partnering with Loaded means he's taking gaming more seriously than just a hobby, and sees the value in acknowledging its expanding place in the pro sports landscape.
Between Harper and Sixers star Ben Simmons, who regularly streams Call of Duty: Warzone - and previously PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds - on Twitch and has a tight relationship with popular esports organization FaZe Clan, Philly is suddenly home to a pair of potential crossover pro sports-esports stars.
Welcome to 2020.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.