Bryce Harper Bats Down Frosty DC Homecoming With Home Run

Bryce Harper Bats Down Frosty DC Homecoming With Home Run

If you’re Bryce Harper, you can’t come home again. If you must, it helps to smack a two-run homer out of the park.

Before Harper sent a 458-foot bomb into the frigid air at Nationals Park Tuesday night, the homecoming wasn’t so rosy for the 26-year-old and newly minted 330-million-dollar man. He faced off against Max Scherzer, arguably the best pitcher in the league. (Some may call that bias, but Scherzer has three Cy Young Awards to back it up).

The boos were deafening. Sitting away from the lofty perch of the press box, where I had frequented during the last decade spent as a sports reporter, I witnessed first-hand the vitriol and anger of Washington fans.

Sure, no sports fan enjoys seeing his former star in another jersey. But one could argue Harper’s seemingly never-ending free agency and money-wins-all decision process rankled the feathers of the city that once loved him. A big chunk of Nationals fans see Harper as a Scott Boras pawn who couldn’t get what he wanted from teams he wanted (Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees), so he settled for a short trip up 95 to say he got an extra $30 million.

Harper has praised Philly fans, walked out to the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” theme song, and tried so hard to fit into the City of Brotherly Love, he lost seemingly all love from the city that helped make him—at least, that’s how it felt last night in Washington.

A cadre of fans spelled out “traitor” in the stands. Beer and hot dogs threw every which way in disapproval as Harper approached the batter’s box for the first time. When Scherzer struck him out swinging, applause erupted.

In the world of black and white, good versus evil, Scherzer brought much-needed warmth back into the hearts of fans who withstood inclement weather to watch Harper fall. It had to be one of the loudest displays of disapproval for a former player’s return. As some Twitter users pointed out, it was possibly surpassed only by LeBron James returning to Cleveland as a Miami Heat player.

Scherzer struck Harper out again for good measure, but Scherzer would eventually retire from the game—as did thousands of fans who felt vindicated against their new nemesis (again, it was also really cold).

But all of that condescension seemed to build Harper’s confidence. Like the “mamba-mentality” of Kobe Bryant’s prime, Harper used the negativity as fuel to end the night 3-for-5 with a single, double, and a homer. In true Harper fashion, the kind Nats fans embraced just eight months ago when he won the Home Run Derby, the bat flipped about 10 rotations as he gloatingly trotted the bases. The Phillies nabbed their fourth win of the season.

In this story, the villain prevailed.

Washington is left with two realizations: Harper may not be Mike Trout, but he’s still really good. The only man now left in the city with a true flare for the theatrics resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Britt McHenry is a journalist based in Washington DC. Follow her on Twitter @BrittMcHenry.
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