Bryce Harper Expects to Play All Weekend, Wants Teammates to 'Ride on His Shoulders' - NBC 10 Philadelphia
Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies

Bryce Harper Expects to Play All Weekend, Wants Teammates to 'Ride on His Shoulders'

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    TAMPA, Fla. - Bryce Harper is used to being received negatively whenever he hits the road. It was his reception when he'd come to Philly, it might be his reception when he returns to D.C. this season and beyond, and it was the case Wednesday night when the Phillies visited George M. Steinbrenner Field.

    When Harper stepped to the plate for the first time in his third spring training game ... well, the Yankees fans weren't saying Boo-urns

    This is the life of a charismatic superstar. Fans boo who they can't have. I asked Harper Wednesday night if he feeds off of it like a heel in wrestling.

    "You hear 'em, but I've been hearing 'em so long," he said. "Every season, every stadium I go into, I expect to get booed. Just part of the game, I don't know if it helps me or not."

    In his third game of the spring, Harper went 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a soft groundout to first base against Masahiro Tanaka. In his third plate appearance, he reached via catcher's interference on the second pitch and stole second base. He asked the home plate umpire if he could stay in to hit, but he was told to go to first.

    Harper expects to play for the Phillies in all three games in Clearwater this weekend: Friday vs. the Blue Jays, Saturday vs. the Astros and Sunday vs. the Yankees. All games are 1:05 p.m. start times. Friday's game is on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ and the next two are on NBC Sports Philadelphia. All three are on the MyTeams app.

    Prior to Wednesday's game, Harper met Yankees legend Reggie Jackson while taking batting practice. 

    "Just being able to talk to him for a second, Reggie Jackson knows who I am and that is pretty cool," Harper said. 

    There are probably a few young players in Phillies camp who feel that way about Harper, who's been a star since he was a teenager. One of the benefits of having a player like Harper in the clubhouse is that the young guys can look to him when things are going south and see how he handles it. 

    There are few better players than Harper to seek out for advice on how to handle all this newfound attention the Phillies will have.

    Last season, Rhys Hoskins became the de facto guy in the Phils' clubhouse to speak after most games, win or lose. Hoskins handled it incredibly well because he's a 26-year-old who's mature and polished beyond his years. He's still a leader for these Phillies but doesn't have to carry as large a load every single day if he doesn't want to.

    Harper shared his own thoughts Wednesday on how he handles all the attention thrown his way and what advice he'd give to his even younger teammates.

    "I'm not really worried about people with microphones or notepads or anything like that. Just try to go out there and be yourself," he said. "If you have a bad game, talk to the media. If you have a good game, talk to the media. It's one of the big things that's tough for young guys and I was part of that as well - 19 (years old) coming up sometimes 0 for 4, I'm sitting there going, golly, I don't want to talk to them again. But also, I want them to be able to lean on me and say I can't do it today and I'll answer those questions as well. 

    "I want to be able to be a guy that lets them ride on my shoulders a little bit and if I have to talk to the media one day for them, I will. But like I said, play the game you know how to play. Enjoy what you do. ... Don't be scared and try to enjoy it. If they're talking to you, just enjoy. They've got a job to do just like you guys and people need to understand that. That's the biggest thing."