Philadelphia sports fans reacted to the news of Bryce Harper’s signing with the Phillies on Thursday in classic Philly fashion — varying degrees of shock, exhilaration, and disdain.
From shoeshine stands to train stations, strangers struck up conversations about Harper’s contract, and shook hands as if they had personally helped secure his $330 million, 13-year deal with the Phillies.
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Dale Bernier, a lifelong Phillies fan, said he had given up hope that Harper would come to Philadelphia, but when the good news was delivered — and finally sank in — he smiled like a kid at Christmas.
“My ex-wife just texted me about it,” Bernier, 61, of Bensalem, said. “This is a really big deal for the team, to get a player of that caliber.”
A passing stranger on Filbert Street who noticed Bernier’s Phillies beanie and overheard him talking about Harper asked if it was true: Had the Phillies signed Harper?
“They signed him!” Bernier yelled as he fervently shook the stranger’s hand.
Maria Macaluso, a longtime Phils fan from Deptford, had also become pessimistic about the team’s chances of signing Harper, given the ups and downs of the trade news.
“I was really, really happy a couple weeks ago, and then I started to get tired of it. … I got disenchanted, you know, you think he’s started to get greedy,” she said. "But the second you’ve heard he’s signed, I mean, how can you not be happy?”
But this is Philly, where real sports fans can always find something to be unhappy about.
Over at the Shoe Doctor shoeshine stand in the Reading Terminal Market, a group of men were immersed in a lively discussion about Harper’s contract.
Like many, Perry Wilson, 60, of North Philadelphia, said he hoped Harper, 26, would invest some of his mega salary in the community — namely in him.
“He should give me some of that $330 million. I live in the 'hood. I’m poor,” Wilson said. “Not one man is worth all that."
Wilson said the Phillies could have used the massive sum to secure three pitchers, something Lenny Garbin, 64, of Pennsauken, agreed the team sorely needs. Garbin also worried how such a massive salary might sit with Harper’s future teammates.
“How are other players on the team that don’t make that much going to feel?” he said. “They’re going to be disgruntled and upset.”
But other fans like Garrett Garber of Blandon, Berks County, were elated that the Phillies had signed Harper, a left-handed rightfielder who over the last four seasons has hit 129 homers — 14 of them at Citizens Bank Park.
“Not only are we adding one of the best hitters in the game to our lineup, but we can also put a lefty bat in the middle of this right-heavy lineup," Garber said. "And Harper hitting in [Citizens Bank Park] for half the games this season will only make him more productive.”
Steven Safern, 60, of Havertown, a Phillies season-ticket holder, was more concerned about the triskaidekaphobic length of Harper’s contract than his salary.
“For us older people, we just all hope we’re around to see the end of it," Safern said of the contract, which doesn’t end until 2032.
Over at Jefferson Station, Mikki DiFilippo, 17, and her mom, Barbara, 49, of Tinicum Township, Delaware County, were busy setting up their table of Girl Scout cookies to sell to evening commuters when they learned of Harper’s $330 million deal.
“That’s a lot of baseballs,” Barbara DiFilippo said. “He better play well.”
Mikki DiFilippo, who is proud of selling $6,000 worth of cookies this season, marveled at Harper’s ability to secure a contract to play baseball for $329,994,000 more than she’s been able to make selling baked goods.
“I respect the hustle,” she said.