Harper: 'Good to feel wanted by Phillies'

March 3rd, 2019

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- is here, and he is not leaving. He said on Saturday afternoon that he always wanted it that way.

Harper put on a Phillies uniform and cap for the first time at Spectrum Field, where the Phillies held a 30-minute news conference announcing his 13-year, $330 million contract. Harper will wear No. 3. He wore No. 34 for seven seasons with the Nationals, a nod to Hall of Fame center fielder Mickey Mantle (three plus four equals seven). He could have pushed for No. 34 with the Phillies. He could have demanded it. He did not.

“I thought Roy Halladay should be the last one to wear it,” he said.

Harper knows his baseball history, and he is ready to create more with his new number in Philadelphia.

He knows the best way.

“You're always remembered for winning, and what better place to do it than Philly?” he said. “This place is somewhere where fans and blue-collar people thrive on winning and thrive on being a family.

“I come from a blue-collar family. My dad woke up at 3 in the morning to tie rebar every single day in 130-degree heat in [Las] Vegas. That's where I get my work ethic. That's what I want to do every single day -- I want to work hard, I want to work out, I want to do the things I can to prolong my career and to play for a very long time and be successful for a very long time.

“For me, it's all about winning. That's what you're remembered for. That's what it's all about.”

Harper talked over and over on Saturday about why he wanted a long-term deal that essentially guarantees he will finish his career with the Phillies. Think about this for a second: if Harper spends the next 13 seasons in a Phillies uniform, he will have spent more time in red pinstripes than such legends as Richie Ashburn and Larry Bowa.

Harper wanted a no-trade clause in the contract as well as no opt-out, despite the fact that his agent, Scott Boras, “invented the opt-out.”

“From Day 1, when I got drafted, it was all about, 'He's going to the Yankees. He's going to the Dodgers. He's going here. He's going there,’” he said. “That's all everybody talked about. That's all anybody wanted to talk about -- they wanted to talk about this moment. Nobody in the next 13 years is going to talk about, 'Oh, he's going to the Yankees, he's going here, he's going there.' It’s about being somewhere for a long period of time, making my family, digging my roots, for the good, for the bad.

“I'm not going to tell you I'm going to win an MVP every single year," he added. "Is that my goal? Absolutely, I want to do that every single year. But there's going to be down years, there's going to be big years, there's going to be years that are just OK. For a team, for an organization, that's what we're going to do -- we're going to go in, we're going to try to do everything we can to win and play hard and play well. That's what it's all about. That's what I want to do.”

Harper talked throughout free agency with Angels center fielder , who is from Millville, N.J., approximately an hour from Philadelphia. He also talked with former Nationals teammate Jayson Werth, who helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series.

Trout attended that parade as a fan. Werth stood on one of the flatbed trucks that rolled down Broad Street.

“J-Dub always talks about Broad Street and his stupid little thing that he had, a red glove or whatever it was,” Harper said, referring to the red Hulk fist that Werth wore that October afternoon. “It's something I want to be part of. It's something I want to be part of for a very long time.”

Harper’s arrival has fans feeling that possibility is closer than ever. They have purchased 220,000 tickets since news about Harper’s contract broke Thursday.

But excitement had been building before that. The Phillies had been planning for this moment, just like Harper.

“They were always saying, ‘Come to Philly! Play here! Be a part of our team!’” Harper said. “You felt the love, the intent and the pureness in people that come to the ballpark every day. Of course, the first six years of my career [when I played] in Philly, people behind me weren’t very nice. But I expected that, and I loved that. And last year they were all super nice, saying, ‘Come to Philly! Do this, do that.’ So that was a lot of fun to hear that. And hearing Jayson Werth talk about it, Jimmy Rollins, all the guys that have great success in Philly talk about what a great city it is.”

The Phillies are an exciting team again. They might even be the favorites to win the National League East.

And if they make the postseason, who knows what happens next?

“We want to bring a title back to [Philly],” Harper said. “I want to be on Broad Street on a frickin' boat or whatever -- a thing, a bus, whatever it is -- and have a trophy over my head and do that. Because that's what it's all about.

“That's what I feel like I want my legacy to be -- all about winning, all about playing the game the right way, for a great organization and for a long period of time.”