Even as a tourist, Harper is baseball's ambassador

June 7th, 2024

LONDON -- Bryce Harper did something Thursday in London he cannot often do in the United States.

He strolled the streets like everybody else does.

“Being able to walk around and be, you know, kind of just another person out there has been great,” he said Friday afternoon at London Stadium.

Harper and the Phillies are in town for this weekend’s 2024 London Series between the Phillies and Mets. The Phillies have been making the most of their time. They had a team event on Thursday night at the Tower of London. Bryson Stott served as Kyle Schwarber’s London tour guide earlier in the day. They were incognito, like Harper, until they ran into the Phillie Phanatic at Buckingham Palace. Phillies manager Rob Thomson, his coaches and other Phillies officials visited the Philly-themed dive bar Passyunk Avenue, which is located near the London Eye.

Ranger Suárez? He said he slept most of the day.

“I went to the market,” said Harper, likely referring to the world-famous Borough Market, which is a short walk from Tower Bridge. “A bunch of vendors, just trying a bunch of different food. I really enjoy food, so being able to pick and choose what I wanted. I picked and chose a lot of stuff. Just a lot of fun to go in there and walk around.”

Many Londoners don’t know much about baseball, which is why Major League Baseball is here for the third time. They are trying to grow the sport internationally, and who better to promote the game than one of its biggest stars?

Harper was asked about a variety of topics on Friday, including cricket, football (aka soccer) and rugby.

USA beat Pakistan on Thursday night in the T20 Cricket World Cup.

“That was legit,” Harper said about the USA’s victory over Pakistan. “That guy rakes. That captain [Monak Patel], he can, damn, he can hit a cricket ball. I think football … I don’t want to say soccer. I feel bad. But, yeah, what an incredible sport. My wife [Kayla] grew up playing it all through college. Just being able to watch it when it’s on, the Premier League’s all over, and on our TVs in the States. [Manchester City star] Jack Grealish, I think is one of the names. I love his hair. He’s got a really good mop, man.”

But then the conversation turned back to baseball. Harper was asked why he loves the sport so much.

“I grew up playing football, basketball, baseball, other sports as well,” he said. “I don’t know. I love the grass, I love the leather, I love the dirt. The wood bat, man. I remember the first time I wore metal cleats, and the first time it was like, click, click, click, click. But just the whole thing. The tradition of Major League Baseball. It’s been around for a long time.

“It’s different. It’s just a different game. Obviously, F1, football, NFL, basketball, every sport is different. But baseball, just the dynamic of the game. Seeing a pitcher throw a no-hitter is one of the coolest things you could ever see. A perfect game. I think if you really watch the game and understand it, if you understand how difficult it is to do that, or how difficult it is to get a hit against a Major League Baseball pitcher.

"It’s very, very difficult to go out there and play this game. Sometimes it feels like it’s boring because a guy is shoving – or pitching well – or a guy goes up there and hits three homers and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, how did he hit three homers against a Major League pitcher?’ So there’s so many things that can happen on any given night. You’re watching Aaron Judge for the first time and he hits one to the moon. It’s an incredible thing. So the more and more you watch it, the more and more you see players and teams, you kind of sit there and you’re all in, you’re involved and you’re ready to go. And it’s such a long season, too, so you’re able to watch every night.”

Harper said he is looking forward to baseball being back in the Olympics in 2028. He said that should help the sport grow internationally.

“There’s nothing more worldwide than the Olympics,” he said. “I watch the most random sports during the Olympics because it’s the Olympics. Oh, this is so cool.”

It would be even cooler if he gets to play in it. Maybe that opportunity will present itself. And then, maybe, the world will see how great Harper has been for the game.