Phillies slugger Bryce Harper is happy to reunite with hitting coach Kevin Long.
The first big move of the Philadelphia Phillies offseason is a reunion that involves not only Joe Girardi and Rob Thomson from their New York Yankees coaching days, but also MVP candidate-outfielder Bryce Harper.
On Wednesday, the Phillies officially announced the hire of Kevin Long as hitting coach. The 54-year-old most recently served in a similar role with the division-rival Washington Nationals for the past four seasons (2018-2021), including their first championship in franchise history.
During Harper’s final season with the Washington Nationals, 2018 — before he signed a then-record deal with the Phillies in early March 2019 — the six-time All-Star drove in 100 RBI for the first time in his career.
Harper recently told reporters that he “could not be happier” that he is reunited with Long. Harper noted to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Breen:
"“[Long] has coached some of the best players and hitting teams in the league and has helped many organizations and players reach their peaks.He is a good one and Philadelphia fans should be very excited.”"
Dating back to the start of the 2018 season under Long, the Nationals have:
- led Major League Baseball in on-base percentage (.338)
- led the National League in batting average (.259)
- posted the second-lowest strikeout rate (20.8%) in MLB
- recorded the fourth-highest walk rate (9.5%) in MLB
In 2019, specifically, non-pitchers on the World Series-champion Nationals slashed .273/.352/.473 with just shy of 300 doubles, 230 home runs, and more than 800 RBI in the regular season. Compare that to the 2008 World-champion Phillies: .263/.341/.454 with 283 doubles, 214 home runs, and 752 RBI.
Before his tenure with the Nationals, Long spent three seasons as the New York Mets hitting coach, and eight seasons on the Yankees staff — including seven with Girardi (2008-14), the second such season defeating the Charlie Manuel-led Phillies in the Fall Classic.
Harper fell shy of 100 RBI this season, but even with 84 is still a frontrunner for MVP honors. Considering he reached triple digits under Long in 2018, the sky is only the limit for an even stronger showing for the Las Vegas native in 2022.