During Bryce Harper’s first trip to Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies’ fans greeted him with boos, and the stadium greeted him with a rare measure – extra security in right field specifically to protect him.
A Post reader who requested to be identified by only his first name, Lester, attended last night’s game and noticed an extra security guard standing in front of Section 303 in right field, but only when the Nationals were in the field. He notified Dan Steinberg. This morning, the Phillies confirmed to The Post they had indeed increased personnel.
“We did take precautionary measures and added additional security in the right field area for last night’s game,” Phillies Vice President of Communications Bonnie Clark said in an e-mail. “We cannot discuss other details of the security enhancement. I am pleased to say there were no incidents during last night’s game.”
While Harper, 19, dealt with only modest boos, there seemed to be a near-incident in the ninth inning, when an object seemed to fly in Harper’s direction. As he settled under a fly ball at the edge of the warning track, white material fluttered to the ground. It did not come all that close to hitting Harper, and it did not appear to be a material hard enough to do much harm to him.
Harper, for his part, did not even notice. “No, they didn’t throw nothing at me,” he said Monday night.
When told it looked like something had fallen from the stands, he said, “It might have, but I was not paying attention to that at all.”
Amid consistent hoopla, Harper has continued to perform well for any rookie, let alone a 19-year-old. He went 2 for 4 with two singles and a stolen base and scored the Nationals’ second run. For the season, Harper is hitting .256/.340/.451 with two homers, two triples and six doubles in 94 plate appearances.
Harper’s visit had heightened attention because he found himself – through no fault of his own – in the middle of a fiery exchange between Phillies starter Cole Hamels and Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo. Hamels admitted to hitting Harper with a pitch on purpose after their meeting May 6. The next day, Rizzo called Hamels “fake tough,” among other colorful descriptors. (All Harper did was steal home and get two more hits off Hamels.)
Sunday, Harper said with a laugh he wanted to hear boos at Citizens Bank Park and hoped that Phillies fans “don’t throw any batteries at me.” While he said it light-heartedly, a lack of context made it seem as if Harper had goaded Philadelphians.
The fans booed Harper before each at-bat he took last night, but only half-heartedly, as if out of rote obligation rather than raw emotion. A steady, cold rain diminished the announced sellout.
“When I’m walking to the plate, I don’t really think about that,” Harper said. “I’m just trying to think about what I’m going to do this a-b and whatnot. But you can still hear everything. It echoes out there. It’s a good ballpark to play in. It gets really loud. Even if they don’t have that many people in the stands, it gets really loud. I think if they had a packed house, it would get a little louder.”
Before Monday’s game, Harper said all the politically correct things. He even cited Philadelphia’s rich sports history, naming Mike Schmidt and Julius Erving.
“They have a great fan base,” Harper said. “They really support their teams in everything – NFL, NBA, NHL. Coming here to play is an awesome feeling. It’s going to be a fun three days.”
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