When I was 12 years old I got a Sports Illustrated subscription for christmas. Every time I got a magazine in the mail I would peruse through it once, maybe twice if it was really gripping, and then toss it to the side never to be read again.
Then the June 2009 issue arrived in my mailbox.
The cover was captivating. There was this 16 year old kid in Nevada who was hitting 570 foot home runs and throwing 96 mile per hour fastballs. The top right corner had a small photo of Dwight Howard, who, with his Orlando Magic were in the NBA Finals. What an insane magazine cover this was. Who was this 16 year old kid? Who was “the most exciting prodigy since LeBron”? His name was Bryce Harper, and I was hooked instantly by his story. Bryce was about to go play at a community college at 16 years old because he knew how much of a legend he was destined to be. High School ball had nothing for him. I brought the magazine in to school to show my friends because I knew this had to be seen by everyone. Eighth grade was the height of my baseball career and here is this kid who is everything I ever wanted to be. I was dying to see how his career was going to unfold.
And unfold it did, as he was selected first overall in the 2010 MLB draft by the dreary Washington Nationals at the tender age of 17(Fun Fact: Manny Machado was taken third overall in that draft). As a Phillies fan I knew rooting for Harper would be a challenge. I said some hideous things about him in the past that were purely out of frustration at how much he killed the Phillies, specifically in Citizens Bank Park. That said, I’ve always loved his attitude and how he knows how good he is. He doesn’t give a fuck. When he would get hyped up and throw a fit, people would call him a hot head, I call him passionate. He also punched Jonathan Papelbon in the face, who despite being much of the things I described Bryce as being, sucks and should be punched daily.
Bryce has signed a 13 year contract with the Phillies worth $330 MILLION DOLLARS. The largest professional sports contract in history. It may seem like a lot, but this is what you have to do to make a run. You sign the best available guy in free agency, structure his deal so that it’s easier on the luxury tax threshold, and keep room to sign Mike Trout two seasons from now. Trout’s deal is up in 2021 when the CBA is set to be renegotiated and one of the predicted results of that is a significant heightening of the threshold or even elimination of it all together, so look for Trout to sign for 10 years and probably half a billion or something outrageous. Then we’re cooking with gas, baby. Anyway, not included in Bryce’s contract: opt outs. I very much believed that opt outs early on in the deal would be necessary in order to get it done. I assumed he’d wanna test the waters here all while making $26M a year to do it. But no, he’s here for the long haul. We will see if that is good or bad but for now I’m going with very good.
All that said, as much as I secretly rooted for him, I always loathed Harper for one thing: not being on my team. I assumed that would last his entire career. It will not. LeBron may not have come to Philly, but the most exciting prospect since him has. for the next 13 years of his career, presumably the rest of it, I get to cheer on Bryce Harper loudly and proudly. It was a long, frustrating journey ten years in the making, but now I get to watch him smash baseballs over the right field fence of CBP, a place where he loves doing just that. I get to watch him play the Mets 234 times. The prodigy that I became enamored with when I was 13 is now mine to enjoy. And when I’m 35, I don’t assume much about my life will be all that different. Ill be fat, bored and alone. but I’ll have 13 years of Bryce harper memories to smile about. Maybe even a ring or two. Welcome to Philly, Bryce. I always knew we were destined for each other and I’ll be watching you in the company of many bud light tallboys.