Bryce Harper returned to Washington for his first game at Nationals Park as an opposing player, a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, the superstar who left — and he got booed. A lot.
Earlier Tuesday, Harper thanked Nationals fans with an Instagram post, and perhaps he thought that bought him some good will with Nats fans. He told reporters in a pregame news conference that he’d understand if he heard boos. But there was a part of him, however small, that wanted to be welcomed back with a cheer given what Washington means to him.
“Of course, I think there’ll be some boos and things like that. It’s part of the game,” Harper said. “I think there’ll be some cheers as well. I’ll always remember the memories we had here, the excitement and all the screams and cheers. I’ll always remember that.”
Those memories may be fading after Tuesday’s game, for Harper and Nationals fans. The cheers were few and far between, while the boos were plentiful.
First boos of the night
It didn’t even take until Harper’s first at-bat for the boo-birds to arrive at Nationals Park. When his name was announced as part of the visiting team’s lineup, the reception was frosty, and it continued during a tribute video played on the Jumbotron.
Big boo for Bryce Harper as he is announced as a part of the Phillies' lineup. And they are still booing as the video tribute plays on the big screen.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) April 2, 2019
So many boos during the Phillies lineup announcement when Bryce Harper's name was announced. The tribute video was not well received. "Thanks for the memories, Bryce." The fans here, for the most part, didn't want to hear it.— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) April 2, 2019
The answer from Nats Park is, "BOOOOO!!!!!"— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) April 2, 2019
No doubt, some cheered. Many Nats pre-game said they expected cheers. But they were drowned out at big-screen intro for Harper. Then brief cheers for Harp at HR Derby, then big boos for shot of him in Phi uni. (Not what I expected.)
Harper’s first at-bat
After the boos rained down during the lineup announcement, this probably should have been expected. Harper walked to the plate to face Max Scherzer for his first at-bat and the boos reverberated around Nationals Park. There were also some cheers. But mostly boos, which only grew louder as the at-bat began.
“If you closed your eyes, you’d think it was October,” Bob Carpenter said on the MASN broadcast.
Boos for Bryce pic.twitter.com/9uiVSKVcIu— Scott Allen (@ScottSAllen) April 2, 2019
Here’s how his first at-bat went: Strike. Strike. Foul ball. Ball. Ball. Strike swinging. So Round 1 went to Scherzer. The cheers for the K were big.
Round 1 goes to Scherzer. 🥊 pic.twitter.com/hUmzjJywFj— Nationals on MASN (@masnNationals) April 2, 2019
Max Scherzer strikes out Bryce Harper in his first AB with #Phillies at #Nats Park & the @Nationals fans go wild! pic.twitter.com/YuExuF5R3u— Chris Russell (@Russellmania621) April 2, 2019
April 2, 2019
For those who have said that DC baseball fans are a bit mild, seldom boo foes, well, that's over. (Quite a surprise.) Harper booed when he steps out of dugout, on way to plate, at plate. And big ovation for Scherzer who fans him with 2-2 change-up.— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) April 2, 2019
Scherzer, who allowed the first two batters to reach base before Harper, got out of the inning unscathed. And as the new Phillie jogged to his usual spot in right field, you guessed it, more boos.
Bryce Harper gets booed running out to right field. pic.twitter.com/QboVAxEVif— Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell) April 3, 2019
Fans in RF behind Harper in front row wear white T-shirts that spell out "T-R-A-I-T-O-R." Another fan with sign behind Harper: "Pardon Papelbon."— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) April 3, 2019
When Harper stepped to the plate for his second at-bat of the night. Booooooooooooooooooos.
Man they are still giving him the business— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) April 3, 2019
Harper managed to work Scherzer to a full count, but the Nationals ace got strikeout No. 2 against his former teammate and his fifth K of the night.
Yo homes, smell ya later. pic.twitter.com/3Jf1aR8mJq— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 3, 2019
Harper’s first hit
The Nationals fans weren’t backing off Harper the second time around. As soon as the slugger began his third walk to the plate in the fifth inning, the crowd erupted once again with a booming hum of boos.
There was a brief reprieve as the count reached 1-2, when a “Let’s go Max!” cheer broke out, but then the boos returned. Harper got his first hit of the night soon after, a one-out double that advanced Segura to third, and the boos stopped as Nationals Park went quiet.
Bryce Harper doubled off Max Scherzer with one out in the fifth and waves to his dugout (which, I'm told, is a thing the Philles are doing this season). The Phillies have second and third with one out.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) April 3, 2019
Harper got his first RBI against his old team in the sixth against Matt Grace. Harper was his usual expressive self afterward, waving to his teammates from second base amid boos. The crowd had been tamped down by a bases-clearing double by Jean Segura just before Harper’s fourth at-bat. After Harper’s hit, “M-V-P!” chants could be heard from Phillies fans. (Note: The chant was for Rhys Hoskins, who was making his way to the plate.)
Harper follows up with an RBI single to left and the Phillies lead 6-0. The nightmare start for the Nationals' bullpen continues.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) April 3, 2019
The traveling Phillies fans are cheering "M-V-P!" for Bryce Harper as Matt Grace pitches to J.T. Realmuto. This got out of hand fast.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) April 3, 2019
With the Phillies up 6-0 in the eighth, Harper blasted a two-out, 458-foot home run to right field for his second and third RBI of the night. There were probably boos but they were drowned out by Phillies fans chanting “We got Harper!” in a rapidly-clearing ballpark. And yeah, Harper flipped his bat before rounding the bases. What did you expect?
The return. #Crushed pic.twitter.com/nUMAupbpg5— MLB (@MLB) April 3, 2019
That bat flip tho... #MLBNShowcase pic.twitter.com/gkUcw454eV— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) April 3, 2019
Bryce Harper’s home run from right. “We got Harper!” chants in full effect and Nats fans headed out. Some Phillies fans yelling after them this is “Citizens Bank South” again. This is night one of 13 years. pic.twitter.com/aL4zocdsJ3— Sam Fortier (@Sam4TR) April 3, 2019
Crowds came prepared for Harper’s return
Tonight in Washington D.C. Extra points for the wig. pic.twitter.com/rsPqBLbZnk— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 3, 2019
Fans in right field with shirts that spell out "traitor" pic.twitter.com/D2YvaBy7EI— Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell) April 2, 2019
Good times all around pic.twitter.com/dy4SHFB784— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) April 2, 2019
We’re all choked up for the game today @magsG8 #OnePursuit pic.twitter.com/xD5maKahwU— Bam Bam (@BeardedNatitude) April 2, 2019
“I will absolutely boo Harper.” Good work here pic.twitter.com/bM7Yyl7gRR— Scott Allen (@ScottSAllen) April 2, 2019
Phans are excited about Bryce Harper's return to D.C. pic.twitter.com/9XTz6E1nBA— Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell) April 2, 2019
Nats fans are ready for Bryce pic.twitter.com/iLbcFItwXZ— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) April 2, 2019
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