Bryce Harper sprinted to right field Thursday with his electric green cleats — with the Phanatic’s face painted near the heel — glistening under the afternoon sun as the Phillies prepared for their season opener.
But before the first pitch of Harper’s 13-year contract would be thrown, he stopped his sprint in right field. He yanked off his red Phillies cap and bowed to the crowd. He fired warm-up throws and then launched the baseball into the third deck, connecting with a fan in the first rows of Section 303. The show was ready to begin.
“Just thought it would d be cool, why not,” Harper said of his cleats. “Bring some fun to the game and the Phanatic is always happy and smiling.”
Opening day usually brings an energetic crowd, but this year felt significantly energized with Harper’s arrival. The crowd cheered as he walked through Ashburn Alley an hour before the game and handed out copies of MLB The Show — the video game he’s on the cover of — as he paraded to the field with teammates.
The crowd’s ovation nearly drowned out Dan Baker’s introduction of Harper as he lined up with his teammates for the national anthem. The fans cheered again once they realized what Harper was wearing on his feet.
He grounded out to first base in his initial at-bat but was cheered as he returned to the dugout. The fans stood for the entire at-bat, almost with a hushed silence as they aimed their cell phones toward home plate in hopes of capturing the moment. Thursday was opening day, but the day belonged to Harper.
“The whole team was pretty pumped and stoked about the support we had in the stands,” Harper said. “What a fanbase, what a crowd we had today. If we can keep that for 162 it’ll be sweet.”
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