Harper delivering everything Phils expected when they signed him

Magical postseason culminating in 1st World Series appearance

October 28th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- John Middleton only imagined moments like this when Bryce Harper came to Philadelphia in 2019. 

Big hits in big moments, Harper on a stage, hoisting a trophy, singing and dancing in the clubhouse, soaked in champagne. 

Bringing Middleton’s bleeping trophy back.

“All the things we thought he was turned out to be true,” the Phillies’ managing partner said Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park, where Philly won the National League Championship Series. “There have been no disappointments. Sometimes when you go through that process, you think you understand what you’re getting with somebody and then what you really get is a little bit different.

“There’s nothing different with Bryce. He’s just committed to winning, and he’ll do whatever it takes. I think if they told him that he had to go play third base, he would play third base. He’ll hit wherever you want him in the lineup, he’ll play whatever position he needs to play. He just wants to win.”

Four more wins, Thomper.

Harper is one of baseball’s biggest stars, but he will be on baseball’s biggest stage for the first time in his life Friday night, when the Phillies play the Astros in Game 1 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park.

He enters Game 1 having one of the best postseasons in MLB history. Harper is batting .419 (18-for-43) with six doubles, five home runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.351 OPS in 11 games. His is the eighth-highest OPS in postseason history. The names ahead of him: Manny Ramirez (2008 Dodgers), Barry Bonds (2002 Giants), Carlos Beltrán (2004 Astros), Rickey Henderson (1989 A’s), Nomar Garciaparra (1999 Red Sox), Paul Molitor (1993 Blue Jays) and Willie Stargell (1979 Pirates).

It’s funny how things work out. The Phillies made a bid for Manny Machado in February 2019, but he took a better offer to sign with San Diego. A short time later, Middleton boarded his jet and flew to Las Vegas to meet Harper, his wife Kayla and his agent Scott Boras.

Middleton made the play to close the 13-year, $330 million deal. And now both Middleton and Harper are in the World Series.

“I don’t like looking back,” Harper said. “I like looking forward and moving forward. This game is, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ That’s how it’s always been. As a team, we never doubted who we are or our identity. A guy gets hurt, we’re going. Manager gets fired, we’re going. So on a team level, I think we’re right where we need to be.

“On a personal level, like I said, I don’t like looking back. But I’m grateful for the experiences that I went through when I was younger to get me to where I am today. As a teammate, as a person, father, everything.”

Harper has grown since he joined the Phillies. He and Kayla now have two children. He turned 30 on Oct. 16.

He has grown on the field, too, which Nick Castellanos noticed after Harper hit the go-ahead, two-run home run in the eighth inning in Game 5 of the NLCS to beat the Padres, 4-3. It was the sixth go-ahead homer in postseason history in the eighth inning or later with the team trailing in a potential clincher.

“I would say watching him hit that home run … not the ball, not paying attention to the ball, but watching him, it was a big lesson for me, being able to watch and learn,” Castellanos said. “The way that he was able to immerse himself in the moment and stay focused and calm was [expletive] incredible.

“This is how I know he’s grown as a person. He hit a walk-off homer against us when I was with the Cubs in 2019. And if you remember him, the way he ran around the bases, it was crazy energetic. Right there, when he hit it, he was the calmest person in the stadium. And I think that’s a lot of growth on his part.”

“I told everyone, I said, ‘If that was me, I would have been high-stepping around the bases and everything,’” Kyle Schwarber said. “And he was just calm as can be running around them. It’s really cool, man. That guy is the ultimate bro.”

What does that say about him?

“Right guy, right spot,” Castellanos said.

The Phillies were in the right spot in February 2019. They got Harper, who talked then about building a family in Philadelphia.

It has grown beyond his wildest dreams.

“I hit the ball, and I just looked at my dugout and kind of, it’s for all of them,” Harper said. “It’s for this whole team. It’s for this whole organization. We haven’t been here for a long time. It’s for every single fan that’s here now and that isn’t here. Like I said, where you came from, who you are, you’ve got Phils on your chest, you’re family. I really believe that. That's from right here.”

But it isn’t over yet. Harper wants a parade down Broad Street. Four more wins and he gets one.

“I told him, ‘It’s perfect that it was you who hit that home run,’” Middleton said. “It’s like a fairy tale. It was fantastic.

“Then I also told him that he might be underpaid.”