PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Even the mayor of Washington, D.C. got in on the Bryce Harper bashing ahead of his return to the nation’s capital for the first Phillies-Nats series of the season. According to several outlets, Mayor Muriel Bowser deleted a tweet depicting Bryce Harper as Benedict Arnold ahead of the All-Star outfielder’s debut at Nationals Park as a Phillie.
It’s expected to be a raucous atmosphere at Nationals Park Tuesday night. The former No. 1 overall pick played seven seasons with the Washington Nationals before heading to the Phillies after signing a 13-year, $330 million contract.
Harper, a six-time All-Star who debuted at the age of 19, led the Nats to the playoffs four times during his tenure, but never advanced beyond the National League Division Series round.
In a lengthy Instagram post Tuesday, Harper thanked Nats fans before returning as an opposing player.
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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.
“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 new Phillies outfielder posted.
Harper added, “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.”
He is off to a good start in his new home, helping the Phillies go 3-0 — they are the only unbeaten team in the majors — with a pair of homers against the Atlanta Braves, each marked by elaborately choreographed celebrations with teammates.
The Nationals, meanwhile, are 1-2 with some serious bullpen issues after avoiding a sweep against the New York Mets thanks to a ninth-inning homer Sunday by Trea Turner.
There has been something of a parlor game in both the nation’s capital and Philadelphia lately, trying to guess how Harper will be greeted upon his return.
He did, after all, win 2012 NL Rookie of the Year and 2015 NL MVP honors with Washington. He helped the club make four playoff appearances. He thrilled spectators by winning last year’s All-Star Home Run Derby in his home ballpark.
But he also left as a free agent to join a division rival.
“I love all human psychology,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “I love to see how people respond to moments like that — the players, the fans and the cities.”
Thousands of Phillies fans are expected to make the trek down Interstate 95.
“Bring it on, if that’s the case,” said Nationals lefty reliever Matt Grace, who said he has thought about what it might be like to pitch to his ex-teammate.
“Treat it just like any other situation: Go after him,” Grace said. “Not going to treat it like anything else. I’m sure he’ll do the same.”
Max Scherzer (0-1, 2.35 ERA) will make his second start in Washington’s first four games of 2019.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner said it will be “weird” to see Harper in a No. 3 Phillies jersey instead of his old No. 34 Nationals uniform.
“He’s signed there forever, basically. At least ‘forever’ in my career. We’re going to be facing each other a lot; this is just the first,” Scherzer said. “So whatever happens on Tuesday, it’s going to be the course of a career facing him. This is just Round 1.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)