Bryce Harper, the prodigal bro
There was a palpable sense of electricity in the air when Bryce Harper walked into his pregame press conference Tuesday, looking like an American Country Music award nominee, with the cameras clicking and whirring as photographers got their shots of the former Nationals superstar.
Then, he began to speak. And slowly, steadily, the energy went out of the room.
This is not typical for a long-awaited media session with a superstar athlete. But a kind of exhaustion for all-things-Harper a collective “What are we all doing here again?” weariness has set in for many of us who have covered baseball’s Chosen One for years.
This is life inside the Harper vortex. Sometimes exhilarating. Often exhausting.
I imagine this was life in the world of Reggie Jackson. I also suspect that, like Reggie’s Yankees’ teammates, Harper’s Washington teammates had many vexing moments. Unlike Reggie, there were not nearly enough thrilling ones.
It certainly wasn’t Reggie-like when, before taking the field for the first of a two-game series between his old team and his new team, the Philadelphia Phillies’ $330 million man said he was “just coming to another stadium and doing my job.”
I don’t know, maybe the press was distracted by the euphoria of the news that had broken about a half-hour earlier that the long nightmare for Washington Wizards fans was over with owner Ted Leonsis firing general manager Ernie Grunfeld after 16 pathetic-to-mediocre seasons.
I think even the Philly media was excited about the news. Sort of like witnessing the passing of Halley’s Comet (got to give Transparent Ted credit for the Harper news drop, easing the pain of facing his Monumental failure since he took over the team eight years ago).
The highlight of Harper’s sit-down with reporters may have been the moment he let his guard down, to talk about him and his wife, Kayla. The couple is expecting, and father-to-be Harper got emotional, choking up when he said, “I’m very happy to be welcoming a baby boy. I’m very excited for my wife, myself and my family.”
Of course, at some point in the future, someone is going to have to tell that kid that he’ll have to live in Philadelphia.
Maybe everyone had just grown tired of the Harper-Nationals melodrama: Who was to blame for his leaving? Who was telling the truth and who was lying? Maybe it’s just a desire to see the story move back down to the playing field, where there will surely be more drama in years to come 13 of them, according to the contract Harper signed with Philadelphia.
“We went down and met with the (Nationals owners) Lerners two days before Christmas,” Harper said. “Did that and thought the meeting went great. And then, it just, it didn’t happen. I thought on both sides it was kind of mutual and it didn’t really bother me, both ways. It was kind of just, ‘OK, well they have two great young outfielders, they have a great plan in what they want to do for their organization.’
“And I said that all year last year if I’m a part of it, great. If I’m not and they want to move on, that’s OK, I’m totally fine with that as well,” he said. “I have no hard feelings against the Nationals and the Lerners, the Lerner family. They’ve always treated me with the utmost respect. It’s been fun to be able to play for an organization that really cares about their players in their organization, and their fans as well. I’ll always cherish those moments and respect the Lerner family and everything they do.”
That was gracious enough. And certainly more conciliatory than when he trashed the Lerners’ offers in earlier interviews after his deal with the Phillies.
But at this point, it really doesn’t matter anymore.
The truth, or something close to it, will be determined on the field.
⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.