WASHINGTON — The climate really match the scene for Bryce Harper’s return to Nationals Park. The rain washed away, and the cloudy skies cleared up, however the temper of Nationals’ followers stayed the identical — together with mine.
As quickly as I stepped foot on South Capitol Avenue that runs adjoining to Nationals Park, I may really feel the vitality and hatred towards Bryce Harper within the air. Folks walked round with Harper jerseys along with his title crossed out on the again and spelled out “traitor.” The rain trickled down earlier than the gates to the park opened, and whereas individuals waited to get inside I overheard some saying that the jerseys ought to be burned. In the meantime, Phillies followers waited exterior the gates with nothing however smiles and a sense of energy.
I knew Harper’s return to the nation’s capital can be one thing iconic, however I by no means knew simply how a lot till I skilled it up shut.
— Blair Berry (@BlairB3rry) April 2, 2019
I felt conflicted as I noticed Harper in one other jersey for the primary time. Somebody who was as soon as my favourite participant left for a contract that I don’t essentially assume was higher, however I used to be completely happy to see him return to a ball park I used to be so acquainted with seeing him play in. As followers bood loudly and shouted “traitor,” a part of me needed to boo him, too. However on the similar time, I nonetheless felt the love I as soon as had for him lower than a 12 months in the past.
Throughout Harper’s time in Washington, it did not matter whether or not it was a good season or dangerous season for the Nationals, there was at all times that anticipation that the staff may make a run as a result of he was on the staff. He was a hero within the metropolis, and every time he stepped as much as the plate you felt that heroism within the environment not solely within the ballpark however all through D.C. As his contract with Washington light away he appeared to get additional and additional away from remaining a Nationwide. Followers suspected he would go away, together with me, however I by no means would have thought he’d step foot in enemy territory and transfer on to the Phillies. Anybody however the Phillies. It was virtually like a way of betrayal.
Due to that, when Harper struck out in his first at-bat towards Max Scherzer, the second may’ve have been any higher. The roars from the gang, the onerous claps and high-pitched whistles made it onerous for me to listen to myself assume. I used to be ecstatic that Harper not solely struck out however struck out swinging, and that it was Mad Max who did the deed. I felt a way of reduction that he received out, however a part of me additionally felt dangerous for Harper as he left the sphere along with his head down and the cheers that sounded all through the gang. Feelings are bizarre.
If you would have told me 5 years ago I would be walking into Nationals Park as an opposing player, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. Five years later, I’m doing just that. I remember the first day I walked into Nats Park. My first base hit. My first home run. And, of course, my first standing ovation. Nationals fans delivered that first ovation. The things that I will miss most are the relationships I gained on a personal level with so many of the Nationals staff and workers around the ballpark. Every day I walked in, I got a smile or shared a laugh with you. I especially want to thank The Lerner Family and Mike Rizzo for the unwavering support they showed me during my tenure in DC. The city of DC was home. Filomena’s, The Silver Diner, The Italian store, and countless other places helped make it feel like home. You, Nationals fans, made me one of your own for the entire time I was a part of the Nationals organization. I’m so blessed to have been able to play for a fan base that cared so much about our team each and every night. You will always hold a special place in my heart no matter what. I look forward to continuing Harpers Heroes with LLS in the DMV as well as making sure the legacy fields bearing my name are the best youth fields in town! When I run on the field tonight I am sure to hear some boos, but I will always remember the cheers and the screams that are still with me right now, as I start my new chapter. So for that, DC, THANK YOU.
Rising up as a Nationals fan, Harper was the man — the participant who gave us hope for a brighter future and World Sequence titles. However all that got here crashing down after he went quiet for months, then signed with division rival the Phillies for 13 years $330 million — after he was initially supplied 10 years and $300 million from the Nats final 12 months.
The Nationals fell to the Phillies 8-2 in Bryce’s return to D.C., certain it sucked, but it surely was additionally a reduction to get that first recreation out of the way in which. Any further every time the 2 play, it’ll simply be the Nationals towards the Phillies.