By Stephen Sorace
Published April 03, 2019
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper returned to Nationals Park in Washington on Tuesday, to howling boos and shirts that spelled out “T-R-A-I-T-O-R,” but it was the former Nationals slugger who got the last laugh.
Harper, who signed a 13-year contract with the Phillies worth a then-record $330 million last month, struck out in his first at-bat against pitcher Max Scherzer. Joyous roars erupted from the home crowd after each strike and his eventual whiff on an 85 mph changeup.
Harper added to the drama in the eighth inning. He drowned out the guttural boos of his earlier plate appearances by smacking a 458-foot two-run homer into the second deck -- punctuating the moment with an epic bat flip in the direction of his former dugout -- that put the Phillies ahead 8-2, which would be the final score.
The homer topped off a 3-for-5 night for Harper, who had three RBI. The bat flip was only one of the theatrical flourishes Harper let loose in the stadium he had called home for seven seasons.
After Ks in his first two at-bats, Harper doubled off Scherzer in the fifth and singled in a run off lefty Matt Grace in the sixth. Harper reacted to both with a "Fortnite"-inspired exaggerated wave toward the Phillies' dugout. Fans who made the trek down Interstate-95 from Philadelphia regaled him with chants of "M-V-P!" and "We got Harper!"
"Really fired me up," Harper said of the chants.
The Nationals drafted Harper No. 1 overall in 2010 and brought him to the majors as a teen. He won NL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors with Washington on top of earning six All-Star selections in seven seasons.
"Emotional day. You're coming back here, where you've spent seven seasons of your career, and try to just go about it the right way and play your game and not worry about your surroundings and things like that," Harper said after the game. "Just trying to soak it all in and soak it up a little bit and enjoy the day."