WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper gets heckled in road ballparks from coast to coast. It’s a fact of life, he says, when you’re one of the most recognizable and highly paid stars in your sport.
To Harper, though, some fans at Nationals Park crossed the line Wednesday night.
Harper declined to elaborate on what he heard from the right-field bleachers in the eighth inning of the Phillies’ 5-2 loss to the Nationals, but he was bothered enough to gesture at the fans, waving a hand in their direction and pointing at his jersey.
"They were fine all game, talking about myself and things like that," Harper said. "I mean, I get it everywhere I go. It's nothing new. But the last inning, it's just not right. It's just not right."
Harper’s wife, Kayla, tweeted on Thursday morning that the objectionable comments were about their newborn son, Krew, and called the fans “classless.” She added that it wasn’t an isolated incident and that it has been going on all season, including some fans wishing that their son was born autistic.
“When you bring his son or family into it, yes you’re crossing a line,” Kayla Harper tweeted. “Stick to your overused overrated and Harper sucks chants if you’re really that loser that goes to a game to heckle someone. Phillies fans might boo him but they don’t bring his 4 week old son into it. Classless.”
Harper was drafted first overall by the Nationals in 2010 and played the first seven years of his big-league career in Washington. He won a National League MVP award there in 2015 and reached the postseason four times.
But Harper left last winter for a 13-year, $330 million contract with the rival Phillies. The Nationals clinched a wild-card spot on Tuesday night, the same day that the Phillies were eliminated from postseason contention.
Bragging rights, for the moment, belong to Nationals fans.
Based on Harper’s reaction, thought, the verbal barbs that he received went beyond merely baseball. Harper often has fun with opposing fans. Earlier this season, he put a finger to his lips and shushed some hecklers behind the plate in San Francisco after he hit a home run. But he clearly wasn’t amused by what he heard in his former stadium.
“That’s part of sports. I guess that’s what it is nowadays,” Harper said. “Individually you go out there and don’t really worry about what they’re saying. But there are times it’s just not good and just not right. Everybody has a platform now, whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, or in the stands. They kind of say whatever they want, and that’s just how it is. You kind of have to live with it.”
Harper had a strong first season with the Phillies. Including two hustle hits in Wednesday night’s 5-2 loss, he’s batting .260 with 34 doubles, 34 home runs, 109 runs batted in, and an .879 on-base plus slugging percentage.
“I’ve got 60,000 fans up in Philly that appreciate me as a player and appreciate me as an individual, and my family as well,” Harper said. “I owe a lot to those people up there in Philly, because they show up for me every single night, and they are there to cheer us on and boo us and keep us going as a team and as individuals as well, and I’m looking forward to the next 12 years. Can’t wait.”