'Wish you were here': Harper keeps up with Team USA

March 20th, 2023

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- watched every pitch of Team USA’s dramatic 9-7 victory Saturday night in the World Baseball Classic.

Afterward, he texted Phillies teammate and Team USA hero Trea Turner, who hit the game-winning grand slam in the eighth inning to beat Venezuela. Harper texted with Mike Trout on Sunday morning.

“It was such a cool moment,” Harper said Sunday at BayCare Ballpark. “Trout was like, ‘Hey, man. We miss you. We wish you were here.’ I definitely wish I was. It’s not bittersweet, though, because I’m so excited for those guys. I want them to win. It’s so exciting for them. It’s so cool. I hope they win [Sunday night], because I’ll probably go to the championship game [in Miami] on Tuesday.”

Phillies teammate J.T. Realmuto set up Turner’s slam when he got hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Realmuto stared and smiled at Venezuelan pitcher José Quijada as he walked to first base.

“J.T. wasn’t very happy,” Harper said. “It’s just great to see the Phillies represent that way. I feel like they’ve had such a great WBC, from Trea to J.T. to [Kyle Schwarber].

“Anybody who has that moment in their career -- I’ve always wanted guys to have success, no matter who it is. But it’s really cool to have a guy in your clubhouse do it because you know he’s on your team. That’s our shortstop. It’s an amazing thing to see Trea do that, knowing that he’s on our team now. That’s our guy. I think the fans were excited to see that. Smoltzie [FOX TV analyst John Smoltz] said last night our lineup is going to be electric. It should be, right?”

Harper was one of the first players to commit to play for Team USA last summer, but he could not participate after having Tommy John surgery in November. He said he wanted to play, in part, because he loved representing his country twice as a teenager. Harper was a member of USA Baseball’s 2009 U18 team that went 8-0 to win the COPABE Pan American "AAA" Championships in Venezuela. That team included Harper, Nick Castellanos, Manny Machado, Tony Walters, Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray and Jameson Taillon. Harper also played for USA baseball’s U16 team in 2008.

Based on those experiences, Harper was thrilled to see players pour out of the dugout to celebrate Turner’s slam.

“We had a distinct way that we had to go about it as players,” Harper said. “Stoic. Just stay here. Don’t get excited. That’s kind of how they teach it at the USA baseball level. So seeing that come out is so cool because it matches the other team. It’s so great to see these players get excited about their country and playing for their country. I’m getting chills right now.

"I love the fact that they played Venezuela last night and the place was slammin’. There were American flags everywhere. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what the World Cup is all about. That’s what the Olympics are about. It’s so cool to see people love their countries so much. It fires me up to see it. I’m so happy for them. I’m so proud of them.”

Team USA defeated Cuba, 14-2, on Sunday night to advance to the title game on Tuesday against the winner of Monday night's game between Mexico and Japan (7 p.m. ET, FS1). Turner continued his red-hot hitting with a pair of home runs.

“I have so much pride for this country,” Harper said. “To put that on your chest and play for them? There’s nothing better. I texted Trout and he said, ‘We’ve got to recruit for the next three years.’ I’m like, ‘Bro, just win this one first.’ But we’ve definitely got to do that.”