By John Perrotto
Bryce Harper has accumulated plenty of individual honors in his nine major league seasons despite still being just 28 years old.
The right fielder was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2015 and selected to four straight All-Star Games from 2015-18 as a member of the Washington Nationals. At the 2018 All-Star festivities, Harper won the Home Run Derby in his home ballpark.
However, one thing Harper has not done yet is win a postseason series. He is ready for that to change in 2021 as he enters the third season of the 13-year, $325-million contract he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in free agency prior to the start of the 2019 season.
Harper also wants to end the Phillies’ string of nine consecutive non-winning seasons.
“I hate being home for Halloween,” Harper said on a Zoom call with the media when he reported to spring training at Clearwater, Fla., in February. “The city of Philadelphia deserves it and they need it. We’re a team that can hopefully do that for them and give that to them. They deserve to be in the stands in October and I know they’re willing to do that.”
If the Phillies are to take that step, it seems likely Harper will be leading the way. He has the power to hit the ball out to any part of any ballpark but also possesses a keen eye at the plate that enables him to draw plenty of walks and maintain a high on-base percentage.
Harper enters the 2021 season with 232 career homers and a .387 OBP. During the pandemic-shortened 2020, he batted .268 in 58 games with 13 longballs, 33 RBIs and a National League-leading 49 walks.
Philadelphia fans can be notoriously tough on their hometown teams and players. However, they fell in love with Harper and his one-of-a-kind hairstyle the first day he put on a Phillies’ uniform and the feeling has been mutual.
And Harper is used to high expectations. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated during his junior year of high school in Las Vegas, being proclaimed as the LeBron James of baseball. A year later, he was first overall pick in the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft following his one season at the College of Southern Nevada.
Harper has lived up to all that hype. In his mind, though, he will really have accomplished little until he gets a World Series ring.
In 2013, he established “Harper’s Heroes,” a foundation that aids families of children with cancer. Bryce and his wife Kayla have two children, a son Krew Aron and a daughter Brooklyn Elizabeth.
John Perrotto, a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh, has covered Major League Baseball since 1988. He is a Hall of Fame voter and has written for such publications as USA Today, Baseball Digest and Baseball America. You can follow him on Twitter @JPerrotto.