The secret to Harper's smooth swing ... Phone booths?

February 28th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki’s Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- spent his offseason trying to stay inside the phone booth.

It’s something he came up with a few years ago, when he was talking about hitting with J.T. Realmuto. Something didn’t feel right with Harper’s swing. Harper is a feel guy. It’s one reason why you might see him holding his hands high one day, then dropping them the next. He might toe tap in the first inning of a game. He might not in the third.

It just depends on how he feels.

“Man,” Harper told Realmuto that day. “If I can just stay inside that phone booth.”

Harper explained his phone booth principle on Tuesday morning at BayCare Ballpark when he was asked if he focused on anything in the offseason. Every baseball player focuses on something in their downtime. It could be mindset or mechanics, or in the case of pitchers, a new pitch or a new grip on an old one.

The two-time National League MVP and 2022 NLCS MVP is no different.

“I know when my swing is correct,” Harper said. “I feel like I know where my body needs to be, what my path needs to be and what my movement needs to be. I’m very in tune with where I need my body. I always talk about my three steps. My three steps are getting ready early, putting my foot down and then getting through the baseball. Those are my three really big cues.

“Just imagine one of those red phone booths in London. The old-school ones. Imagine I’m in that phone booth. If I can just stay in that phone booth and not get too far [he tilts his body forward] to hit this wall [of the phone booth] or not get too far to hit that wall [he tilts his body the other way], if I can stay in the phone booth and hit the ball here, then everything else should take care of itself. So I want to keep mastering that.

“Obviously, there’s stuff I can get better at. But that’s all in-game playing. I need to play games to get better at that. In the offseason, I’m trying to master my craft of early, down and through, and then staying in my window of that.”

Harper said he and Realmuto still occasionally bring up the phone booth when they talk hitting.

“When I get uneven or something happens, I’ll say, ‘Just stay in it,’” Harper said. “If I can master that, I think it’ll help me in the long haul.”

Harper said he hasn’t tried any of the high-tech options available to hitters, including performance labs that break down every part of a hitter’s swing.

“I talked to a guy about the swing evaluation stuff from [Marucci Sports, a sports equipment company] last year and he was like, ‘I think you’re OK,’” Harper said. “Like, don’t switch your bats. We’re going to come back with the same stuff you’re probably swinging right now. Obviously, there’s stuff you can always learn on the computer side. But I’ve talked to multiple people about getting fitted with all the wires and all the mechanical stuff they do.

"I think it’s great. It’s awesome. But I’m trying to master my stuff right now. But if I do get to that point, it’s a phone call away.”