Maybe there’s a perfectly good explanation for why Bryce Harper hasn’t resembled the player who won the National League MVP in 2015 while hitting about .200 this month. Maybe Bryce Harper isn’t really Bryce Harper. Maybe the Mets or Marlins kidnapped the Nationals right fielder and replaced him with one of his many (okay, at least two) doppelgangers.
Like this guy.
Or this guy.
Zach Clearwater was this season’s original Harper doppelganger. The 21-year-old Chopticon High School graduate attended the Nationals-Tigers game on May 9 and sat in the Delta Sky360 Club seats behind home plate, giving him an excellent view of Harper’s seventh career ejection while giving the TV cameras an excellent view of him.
“I was trying to get him to at least recognize me, but he didn’t seem in the best mood to do that,” joked Clearwater, who has dressed up as Harper for Halloween. “My expectations were just to get the announcers to say something about me on TV and it well exceeded that. I just did it to have fun and that’s what ended up happening.”
Not Bryce Harper, not creepy at all pic.twitter.com/FsaVlTbCUc
— anthony fenech (@anthonyfenech) May 9, 2016
Clearwater was featured on the ESPN broadcast and mentioned by MASN’s F.P. Santangelo and Bob Carpenter. He conducted an interview with MLB.com. A Nationals employee was impressed with Clearwater’s get-up and presented him with the Bryce Harper MVP bobblehead that was to be given out two nights later and two tickets to that game, which was Max Scherzer’s 20-strikeout performance. Texts from friends who saw him on TV came in droves.
“I was trying to look somewhat professional, so I was trying to only look at my phone during commercial breaks,” Clearwater said.
Professional, eh? Then how did Clearwater explain his shoes?
“I wore some white Nikes,” he said. “I wasn’t going to wear cleats inside the ballpark because I would just feel kind of silly doing that. People were like, ‘Oh, you’re playing in tennis shoes, huh?’ ”
Eight days later, another Harper doppelganger was spotted at Citi Field with a sign that read, “Hey Bryce, I’ll serve your next suspension for you!” on one side and “P.S. I skipped my Masters graduation tonight to meet Bryce Harper” on the other.
This man kind of looks like Bryce Harper. So he dressed up in a full Nats uni, eye black and all, and is at Citi pic.twitter.com/BqLmVJpKGj
— Mike Vorkunov (@Mike_Vorkunov) May 17, 2016
His parents and professors tried to convince him to change his mind, but Joe Lentini, 25, really did skip his Masters graduation ceremony to see Harper … while dressed as Harper. A Phillies fan who played college baseball and is often told he looks like Harper, Lentini bought tickets for the game a few months earlier. He expected his graduation ceremony would be in the morning, as it had been in previous years. When it turned out the ceremony would be held at night, he decided the chance to meet his favorite player was too good to pass up. After all, he’d already walked as an undergrad.
“I wanted to celebrate my graduation and hard work doing something I wanted to do,” said Lentini, who earned his Masters in exercise science from Kean University.
So, which Harper doppelganger wore the unbuttoned jersey, facial hair and eye black better?
“He’s got a bigger build on him and I’m sure his jersey’s the right size,” Clearwater said. “His eye black was also better than mine and you could tell he just got a fresh haircut. It’s cool to see other people do it.”
“I feel like he stole a bit of my thunder, but it’s all good,” Lentini said. “I personally don’t think he resembled him that much and I was way more on point, but to each his own.”
Perhaps the two doppelgangers should sit together and dress as Harper at a future Nationals game in D.C. Lentini could bring his identical twin, who couldn’t make it to the Mets game. That would really be creepy.
“I can’t really promise on the cleats,” Clearwater said, “but I’m in the weight room trying to get a little bigger.”