CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies had the money to sign Bryce Harper when they landed in January in Las Vegas and knew it would be difficult for another team to outbid them for the services of the free-agent superstar.
But what else besides money could separate them from the other suitors who flew into Vegas? Enter Weapon X.
The Phillies, in what manager Gabe Kapler called a “collaborative effort,” gathered video clips from notable Philadelphians: athletes, politicians, chefs. They packaged the clips and premiered the short film for Harper and his wife, Kayla, when they met them in a Vegas hotel.
One clip featured an impassioned plea from Brian Dawkins, the Pro Football Hall of Famer known as well during his Eagles career for his bone-crunching tackles as he was for his pregame rallying cries. Weapon X did his job. Harper took the Phillies money and said the video “was pretty cool.”
And before Harper made his spring-training debut on Saturday, Dawkins buttoned up a Phillies jersey and grabbed a microphone to rally the crowd before the first game of the player he helped the Phillies land.
“He’s another rock star, right,” Dawkins said before the game. “But you know it’s not just the guy, it’s the talent. You can see it. I saw that, I’m pretty sure the baseball-savvy individual knows it more than I do that he’s a phenomenal, once-in-a-generation type of player. So he’ll come here with his teammates and bond.”
Dawkins visited the Phillies clubhouse in the morning to speak to the team.
He said he didn’t have a message for the Phillies, but instead challenged them to “look at opportunities to be the better versions of themselves for the whole.”
Rhys Hoskins said he was “ready to run through a brick wall.” Jake Arrieta said Dawkins’ speech would “resonate with us for a long time.” Harper said it was great to hear from “a Philly legend.” It was also great to meet one of the stars of that video.
“There was a lot of guys on that. It was cool to be able to sit there and listen to other Philly athletes and other Philly legends talk to me about them wanting me to come to Philly and things like that,” Harper said of the video. “So being able to meet him in person today was great to hear and I think everybody in the clubhouse was excited to have him.”
Dawkins spent all but three years of his 16-year career in Philadelphia. He experienced the highs -- 2004’s NFC championship -- and the lows -- a three-win season in 1999 -- during his run with the Eagles. He understands the mindset of the Philadelphia fan better than most. And perhaps that is where he can be most beneficial to the city’s new $330 million superstar.
Expect the fans to boo, Dawkins said, if you don’t run hard to first base. “You think they’re going to clap,” Dawkins said. Play hard, Dawkins said, and you’ll be fine.
“If you go out, make a mistake, and then correct that mistake and you go ball out, they’re not going to boo you for that,” Dawkins said. “Some of this is kind of common sense and that I think people just want to pile on Philadelphia about.”