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Saturday, March 2, 2019

Phillies introduce Bryce Harper after biggest contract in sports history

Middleton, Klentak, Harper at intro presser
"During the great history of the Philadelphia Phillies there have been many acquisitions that have helped move the franchise forward, both on and off the field. From Steve Carlton and Pete Rose in the 70’s, Jim Thome in the early-2000’s, to the acquisition and eventual re-signing of Cliff Lee. The trade for Roy Halladay, to finally the signings and trades of current Phillies players like Jake Arrieta, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. Many have altered in such a positive way the fate of this incredible franchise. Today we celebrate a franchise-altering signing for our city and our organization as we introduce Bryce Harper to the city of Philadelphia officially.
With those words, Phillies broadcaster Tom McCarthy eloquently opened up this afternoon’s statements and press conference to celebrate what is, as general manager Matt Klentak would immediately follow and refer to it: “the largest contract in the history of Major League Baseball.
Harper would then go on to make his own impassioned and inspiring opening statement, one in which he emphasized the importance of his family and the familial presentation and representations of the Phillies during the free agency process. During that statement the club’s new right fielder stated “I can’t wait to get on that field and do Phillies Nation proud!

Once Harper’s opening remarks had concluded it was time for the press to take their first swings at the 26-year-old superstar. The topics were wide-ranging, dealing with issues from money to baseball, from his old team to his new, from business to personal issues. Here are the highlights:
SOCIAL MEDIA
Harper was asked this right off the top by the King himself, Howard Eskin, whether he followed social media and what affect, if any, it had on his decision. In his response he made it clear that he did follow, but that family was the most important factor in the final decision:
Of course you look at it. You look and see what people are saying. But it’s a family decision for me. It’s where I felt comfortable throughout the whole process. I talked to my wife. I talked to my mom, my dad. And we all made the decision to do the things we could to get back to Philly…"

FAMILY
This was the over-arching theme of both Harper’s personal statement and his most important answers to questions. It became the specific topic of the second question asked:
Being able to sit down with John and Leigh (Middleton) and knowing how family-oriented they are, how they treat everybody in the Phillies organization from everybody in the clubhouse, everybody up in the offices, and also everybody around the ballpark.
I think it’s pretty amazing how many tenured Philly people that work with the team are with the organization for a long period of time. Every time I came to Citizens Bank Park, I felt that…talking to the guys in the elevator, or when we walked into the visitor side and talking to Butch that stands right there, he’s one of the security guys…other guys saying “Come here. Play here. Be part of our team. Be part of our organization.” That goes a long way. You feel the love. You feel the intent, the pureness of the people who come to the ballpark every day."
FANS AND FORMER PHILLIES PLAYERS
JaysonWerth-793753.jpg
Former Phillies and Nationals star Werth was a teammate in Washington, and helped sell him on Philly.
“Of course, the first six years of my career coming to Philly, people behind me (out in right field) weren’t very nice. But I expect that, I love that. But the last year they were all super nice, saying “Come to Philly!” So that was a lot of fun, to be able to hear that as well.”
Of course, Jayson Werth, getting to hear him talk about it. Chase Utley. Jimmy Rollins. All the guys that have had great success in Philly talk about how great the city is, that it’s an amazing city to be a part of, and I’m excited to get going.
NO CONTRACT OPT-OUT CLAUSE
"This guy (looking at agent Scott Boras) invented the opt-out. And I actually told him at the beginning of the process that I didn’t want one, wherever I went. I wanted to be able to make my roots somewhere. That was through the goods and the bads, the ups and downs of the team and the organization. It’s going to be tough for 13 years to win every single year, and I truly understand that.”
“Being able to sit down with John and Matt and everyone involved in the process was huge for me, because I know what it takes to have success, being in the playoffs for a long period of time with the Nationals. We didn’t get past the first round, but we were able to get there for a good run and do certain things in that organization that were very good.”
“I want to be able to do that here, and do well and play hard and have the team we do for a long period of time. Even through the bumps and bruises. I want to go through that as well. I want to be part of this organization. I don’t wanta go anywhere else. I want to be part of this family, this Phillies Nation."
MISSING SPRING TRAINING TIME
"I enjoyed home for another two weeks. I enjoyed hanging with my friends and getting my work in as well. I’m hitting and doing all the things I need to get ready for the spring. I think the worst part is seeing guys going out there and getting back into that groove of being in the clubhouse atmosphere and being with the other guys.”
“But for me, you don’t really play that first week of spring anyways. So, if it was gonna take some time, then it was gonna take some time. I knew at the end of the day, being able to sign with Philly was the right choice for me, and we made it happen about 27 days before the season. So, I think I’m gonna be okay."
NEW TEAMMATES
Rhys Hoskins hits a home run at the 2018 Home Run Derby
Harper and Hoskins struck up a friendship at the 2018 All-Star Home Run Derby / Photo: Brian Michael
The first thing I thought about signing with the Phillies was I don’t have to face Aaron Nola anymore. That was something that I was very happy about. This team is filled with perennial All-Stars. Being able to meet Rhys Hoskins a little bit through the process of the Homerun Derby and the All-Star Game, talked to him a little bit about Philly…about how he is and who he is as a person, he was a lot of fun to get to know. Arrieta, Eflin, a lot of the young guys on this team, Pivetta. The bullpen that they have, adding David Robertson. Jean Segura playing shortstop is an absolute stud. Maikel Franco…Odubel Herrera…I mean, you can go on and on about this team and how good they can be. And my favorite player in the game, J.T. Realmuto, that was huge as well. Matt did a great job this off-season to assemble that roster.”
“The thing about the East is, it’s a juggernaut. I’m not gonna tell ya that we’re gonna come in this year and win a World Series, or win the division, or anything like that. Of course, we all want that to happen. That’s your goal when you walk into spring training. That’s the goal of the fans. That’s the goal of everybody. But good things take time as well. We gotta mold as a team, mold as an organization, and really understand the guys in that clubhouse, and make that a family.”
“Every guy pulling on the same rope every single day, really becoming that. I think this organization…us…gonna be very successful for a long period of time. But it’s gonna take some time. It’s gonna take some time for guys to get going and understand how to win, and what it takes to win in the long haul of a 162-season, plus possibly 21 games in the playoffs. This organization has gone through that…has done that in years past. I know that guys wanta feel that now. I’m excited to be part of that. I’m excited to be part of the group…going to this clubhouse, and just be a part of this team."
NEW UNIFORM NUMBER
Harper felt his former Washington number 34 should always belong to Halladay in Philly. (SD Dirk)
Of course, I wore #34. But I thought Roy Halladay should be the last one to wear it. He’s somebody in this game that is greater than a lot of guys who ever played it. He’s a Hall of Famer, somebody who played the game the right way. He was a great person, one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met, playing across from him in 2012. So for me, it’s Roy Halladay. He’s 34. He’s what represents that number in Philly. When you go in there and see his name on that flagpole in center field, it’s something that he should be remembered for.”
“Maikel Franco, he wears #7, and he’s a teammate of mine. He’s someone that I didn’t want to ask for the number. I didn’t feel right doing that. I don’t know if that has any significance to him, being #7, but I didn’t want to find out. He’s #7 on the Phillies and he should be able to wear that number every single day.”
“The #3 is kinda like a family number for us. My brother wore it in high school. My dad wore it in high school growing up. My mom wore #13. My wife isn’t very happy about the number because she likes even numbers, so lookin’ down and seeing #3 is gonna be a little tough for her (Kayla laughed during this and shook her head) but it’s a family number and I think it looks okay."
NATIONALS YEARS, AND NOW HAVING TO FACE THEM
"I love everybody in that clubhouse. I grew up inside that clubhouse. I grew up in that organization. I have so much respect for (Nationals GM) Mike Rizzo. He actually reached out to me and told me congratulations. That’s somebody that had my back for my whole career, somebody that maintained every single day. I did certain things for that organization that I truly won’t forget. Players in the clubhouse reached out and told me congrats, and were very excited for me as well.”
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to playing somewhere that I’m comfortable as well. And also in Philly. So that gives me two places in the East that I’m very comfortable at. So, I’m really excited to be able to face those guys…and also to watch from afar a little bit and see how they’re doing. Hopefully we can do some damage as well."
$330 MILLION
"Baseball is worth about $11.5 billion dollars, so I think some of it should go back to the players as well. I’m making $26 (million) a year, something like that, so I think that’s gonna be able to bring some other guys in as well that will help this organization win. I know there’s another guy in about two years (Mike Trout) who comes up off the books. We’ll see what happens with him.”
“I’m excited to be in Philly. I’m excited to be able to be part of this organization. And for me, the game’s changed a lot. The game’s changed in that it’s a different time, it’s a different world. Big social media. Everybody knows what’s going on. Everybody knows what everybody’s doing. There’s a lot of fans that love to come to the game that are spending about $16 for a beer that used to be about 25 cents for a beer. So I think that all around, it’s changed."
WHY PHILLIES OVER THE DODGERS
"Throughout the whole process, I wanted to leave my door open to wherever I wanted to go. But for me it was all about the long haul. It was about being able to dig my roots, plant somewhere where I wanted to be for a long time. I said that in D.C. when I was there as well, that I wanted to be somewhere for a long period of time. We went through that process, and it just didn’t work out. It just didn’t happen. Philly was able to do that for me.”
“And when I met with the Middleton family, I felt that. I felt that commitment. I felt that when we went to dinner in Vegas with Leigh and John. Me and my wife walked away and, wow, we were blown away by these amazing people. That they could really understand where we were coming from. Understand the family aspect of our life. Understand the city of Philly and what it’s all about.”
Harper received encouragement on Philly from other local stars like Carson Wentz (Keith Allison/WikiCommons)
“Having that relationship with them as well. For me, I wanta have that relationship with my organization. I wanta be able to be a family, be able to be a unit, and be able to go through the ups and downs with everybody. Stay as even keel as we can, no matter what. John wants to win more than anybody. I saw that passion. I saw that fire. He talked a little bit about him wrestling in college, and the commitment he made to that, and the commitment he made in his daily life, it was just amazing to hear.
"To be able to see that and to feel that. To feel the love from Philly and the fans…I haven’t played there yet, but to feel it on social media. To feel how excited they are. To feel the love from other guys from other teams in the city. Ben Simmons. Carson Wentz. Guys that have reached out. It’s amazing to see. When you play in Philly as a visitor, you see the Eagles right there, you see the Flyers, you see the Sixers and all the big-time memories that all those teams had. The Flyers, they were an expansion team just like the (Las Vegas) Golden Knights (Harper’s hometown hockey team), and they were able to win. It’s an amazing thing to see.”
“This whole city, it’s a winning city, it’s an amazing city. J-Dub (Werth) always talks about Broad Street, and his stupid little thing he had, the red glove or whatever it was (giant red plastic fist that Werth wore in the 2008 parade), it’s something that I want to be a part of for a very long time, and we have an opportunity to do that for a very long time. I don’t know if that’s gonna happen this year or next year or in years in front of us, but I hope it does.”
“I want to be a part of it. I want to be a part of this organization. I want to be a part of this organization and help out anybody I can. That’s the feeling that I get with this whole organization. It’s about the family. It’s about what we can do as a city, the community. How we can make a community better. How we can make Philly better as a place, as a city of winning, and I want to be a part of that."
IMPORTANCE OF MAKING HISTORY
"I think you’re always remembered for winning, and what better place to do it than in Philly? This place is somewhere were fans, blue-collar people, thrive on winning and being a family. I come from a blue-collar family. My dad woke up at three o’clock in the morning to tie rebar every single day in 130 degree heat in Vegas, and 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 to 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. Personal accolades and things like that, they’re great. But for me, if our team plays well, our team plays together, I find joy in my teammates success. I love that, I love seeing that. I was able to see that for a long time in D.C. with Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto this year as well. And you see that with the Phillies.”
“I want to find that joy. If I’m 0-4 or 4-4, that doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what we can do to get that extra run to win the game, and to win for a long period of time. If we can do that, then we’ll win a lot of games. I think we have the pitching and have the defense to do that for a long period of time. I’m excited to be a part of it, excited to get going and make that run."
HOW THE PAST PREPARED HIM FOR THIS DAY
"I think the biggest thing coming out of high school and college and finally getting drafted, from day one 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.” After six years, “he’s going here.” That’s all anybody talked about. That’s all anybody wanted to talk about, this moment. For me, going through this process, it was where can I be with no opt-outs, with a no-trade, where I can be for a long time and not have to worry about going anywhere else.”
“Because for me, when I was in D.C., I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I didn’t want to be part of two organizations, or anything like that. That just didn’t work out for me. But now, being able to be a part of an organization for 13 years, and be able to put all my faith and trust in everybody in this organization, I’m very excited bout it. Because nobody in the next 13 years are gonna talk about “Oh, he’s going to the Yankees, he’s going here, he’s going there.””
“I mean at 39, hopefully I can prolong my career, that would be great. But for me, 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 gonna tell you that I’m gonna win an MVP every single year. Is that my goal, is that my success, to do that? Absolutely, I want to do that every single year. But there’s gonna be down years. There’s gonna be big years. There’s gonna be years that are gonna be just okay.”
“For a team, for an organization, we’re gonna go in and do everything we can to win, and play hard, and play well. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what I wanta do…I wanta be on Broad Street on a freakin’ boat or whatever, a thing, a bus, whatever it is, and have a trophy over my head because that’s what it’s all about.”
“At the end of the day, I want to be able to go to sleep and know that I gave it my all and was able to bring back a title to the Philadelphia Phillies organization, to Mr. Middleton, to Mrs. Middleton, and to the whole city of Philly, to the fans, to everybody that’s a part of this. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I want my legacy to be: all about winning, all about playing the game the right way for a great organization for a long period of time."
Originally published at Phillies Nation as "Bryce Harper press conference highlights"

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