CLEARWATER, Fla. — It was not long after Bryce Harper finished his introductory news conference on Saturday — a fun, 30-minute session when he seemed to endear himself to Philadelphia by referencing his blue-collar upbringing, name-dropping other city athletes, and railing against overpriced beers — that he learned he had made a mistake.
His wife, Kayla, told Harper he had slipped when answering the final question of the day by saying he wants “to bring a title back to D.C.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, man,’” Harper said. “I didn’t even notice it.”
Sunday was the first day for Harper in a Phillies uniform after spending the first eight years of his professional career with the Washington Nationals. Bringing a title back to D.C., Harper said, was his goal for the last seven seasons. Consider this an honest mistake.
“When you grow up from 17 to 25 in an organization and you’re trying to do everything you can to win for that organization and bring a title somewhere you’re going to have those slip-ups,” Harper said. “That’s part of it. But I’m a Phillie and I’m very excited about it.”
Manager Gabe Kapler said Harper will likely see his first spring-training game action on Saturday in Clearwater against the Blue Jays. The Phillies plan to use Harper as a designated hitter. He arrived at the team’s complex at 6:30 a.m. and worked out later in the morning at Spectrum Field as he stayed with the other Phillies who did not make the trip to play the Twins in Fort Myers.
Harper, wearing a blue Phillies shirt and gray baseball pants, stretched with his teammates, took batting practice and shagged fly balls. He hit with Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura, two of the lineup additions who preceded his arrival.
Harper spent the winter hitting batting practice from his father in Las Vegas as he waited to sign his record-setting deal. The Phillies will want him to face pitching — perhaps in a minor-league game — before he plays on Saturday. Harper, after missing the first three weeks of spring training, said he is taking his time but said he will be ready for opening day.
“I think any time you come into a new situation, whether it’s a baseball job or any job, you’re a little nervous, a little excited,” Harper said. “That’s what it’s all about. I look forward to getting to know everyone on a personal basis and seeing where it takes us.”
After his workout, Harper referenced the news conference flub when asked how long he thought it would take for it to set in that he now plays for the Phillies. The flub had been panned on social media, including a post by Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard who wrote, “We want to bring home a title to DC ... oops ..I mean Queens.”
Harper said he’ll be able to answer that question in November. By then, he said he hopes to be riding down Broad Street -- “in a freaking boat” -- with a World Series trophy.
“It’s going to be new. It’s going to be different,” Harper said. “I’m a Philadelphia Phillie now and I’m excited to be part of it, get to know everybody, get to know the city. I like the blue a little bit, that royal blue is pretty sweet, a little different color. I’m excited to be part of it and get to know everybody.”
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