The Philadelphia Phillies' 2023 season might have ended earlier than hoped, but one of the team's stars hasn't stopped showing his appreciation and support for the City of Brotherly Love and the fans this offseason.
The right fielder-turned designated hitter-turned first baseman has been vocal about his appreciation of the city that became home in 2019.
Simply put, Bryce Harper loves Philadelphia.
And he hasn't hesitated to show that love when approached by fans. On Oct. 30, an officer with the Haddon Township Police, Eric Aparicio, posted a now-viral picture with Harper outside of a Sprouts Farmers Market.
The superstar also made a public appearance later that night to return the love he and his teammates received during their playoff run.
During the 2023 postseason, athletes from the city's other teams showed up to support the Phillies — including members of the Eagles and Flyers — and on Oct. 30, Harper returned the favor by watching the Flyers take on the Carolina Hurricanes alongside his family.
And Harper wasn't the only big name in the building, but alas, there was no evidence of a meetup between the seven-time All-Star and Wally, the emotional support alligator that was denied entry to Citizens Bank Park near the end of the regular season.
As pointed out on the broadcast, Harper was "amongst the people," rather than in a suite. That's not all that surprising, though, considering he seems to thrive off of engaging with the Philly fans.
Going back to earlier in the season, it's no secret that Harper is a frequent listener of 91.4 WIP, and in the second half of the season, something special happened. Enter Chuck from Mount Airy.
During an Aug. 29 12-7 win against the Los Angeles Angels, Harper hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the second inning.
Before the game, Chuck had called into the radio station, and Harper heard the fan, telling reporters: "He calls in a lot. He's hilarious. He was talking about our team, talking about me and stuff, and I walked into the training room and was like, 'I'm going to go deep tonight for Chuck.' Because that guy had me fired up, man."
Later that same week, Chuck called while Harper was live on air and thanked the first baseman for the shoutout. Harper's response was true to form: "We're all a family. You guys pull for us. We pull for everybody."
After a pair of shortened seasons, it's clear the possible first baseman of the future appreciated the support more than ever.
The 31-year-old waited until May 2 to make his debut this season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. That barely slowed him down, however, as he put up one of the best seasons of anyone on the team.
In 126 regular-season games, Harper slashed .293/.401/.499 with 21 home runs and 72 RBI. He topped the team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+.
During the postseason, he hit .286/.455/.643 with five home runs, eight RBI, and 13 walks in 13 games. He went hitless in Games 6 and 7 of the National League Championship Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks but shined in the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. In that series, he hit .462/.611/1.154 with three homers, five RBI, and five walks.
Following a Game 3 win over Atlanta in the NLDS — the game now known for the double staredown of Orlando Arcia — the Phillies star wore his emotions on his sleeve when speaking with the media about what the city of Philadelphia and the fans mean to him:
As the two-time MVP said while he choked back his emotions: "I love this place. ... I signed here for a reason."
Harper fully committed to Philadelphia and the fans
Harper's current contract, signed for 13 years and $330 million and no opt-outs, will keep him in red, white and blue through the 2031 season. There have been recent rumblings from his agent, Scott Boras, that they might pursue an extension to address Harper's salary, which now appears to be a bargain and to keep him in Philly long enough to retire.
When talking to Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman on The Show podcast, Boras talked about Harper's choice to structure his current contract the way he did: "Bryce's point of view was, 'Look, I'm gonna go there and commit. I'm gonna go there and win. I want to show the fans that I like them and in one place. And we're gonna win this way.'"
Phillies owner John Middleton thinks the no opt-outs played a big role in fans embracing Harper early, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today: "If he had a five-year opt-out like a lot of players do, it would be like, 'Oh if you're playing really well, then you're just going to leave us, and if you're not playing well, you’ll stay.' That's a one-way street. Fans here don't like one-way streets. The fans here want to be committed to their players. And they want the players to be equally committed to them."
Few athletes have embraced the city and fanbase as much as Harper has over the years, and it doesn't go unnoticed.
Whether or not an extension is in the cards anytime soon, it's clear that Harper is committed to the city and to his team for the foreseeable future — so it's likely we'll keep seeing these interactions emerge between fans and the 2021 National League MVP.
Because simply put, Philadelphia loves Bryce Harper back.