Bryce Harper Meets Charlie Manuel and Larry Bowa, a Pair of Phillies Legends

CLEARWATER, Fla. - By the end of his new 13-year contract, Bryce Harper may be a Phillies legend. (For $330 million, he'd better be.)

On his first workday with the Phillies, Harper got to bond with a couple of guys who've already achieved that status.

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Harper took batting practice Sunday morning under the watchful eye of a group of staffers that included Charlie Manuel, the Phillies' World Series-winning manager from 2008.

Later, he stood in right field and shagged balls with Larry Bowa, shortstop on the 1980 World Series championship team.

Manuel broke the ice with Harper in a playful manner.

"I told him I didn't tell Hamels to hit him," Manuel said, referring to the time Cole Hamels plunked Harper, then a rookie with the Washington Nationals, in 2012. "That was the first thing I told him. I said 'Look Harp, I didn't tell Hamels to hit you.'"

Both men had a good laugh over the long-ago incident that earned Hamels a five-game suspension.

During batting practice, Harper treated the longball-loving Manuel to a bunch of line drives and a few long ones over the right- and center-field walls.

"I think he was the fit for us," Manuel said. "I was telling someone yesterday, I looked at our team like we had a big four-layer chocolate cake. And all of a sudden we have the icing to go on top of it. That's kind of how I looked at it."

The Phillies added former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, former NL hits leader Jean Segura, all-star reliever David Robertson and baseball's top catcher, J.T. Realmuto, before they signed Harper.

Harper, 26, has 184 career homers. Only 11 players in history have hit more through their age-25 season. Manuel is looking forward to seeing what Harper will do in cozy Citizens Bank Park.

"I don't want to put a number on it," said Manuel, now a front-office adviser with the Phils. "I'm definitely going to enjoy watching him play there. I want him to just go out there and let his talent and how good he is speak for itself and have a lot of fun. I'm sure if he does that, we're definitely going to win some ball games.

"Yesterday, I felt like he was very serious when he talked (in a news conference) about us winning. That right there is a good start. But how many is he going to hit? He's going to hit quite a few. I told Jim Thome a long time ago, 'How many do you want to hit?' If he can stay relaxed and focused and love the game like he does right now, there's no telling how many he can hit."

Bowa, now an adviser with the Phils after playing, coaching and managing the club, had 2,191 hits in his 16-year career. Only 15 of them were homers.

Bowa followed the Phillies' pursuit of Harper intensely and was thrilled when they landed him.

"I just wish I could hit home runs like him," he said. "I chop up singles. He chops up seats in the grandstands."

Harper enjoyed getting to know Manuel and Bowa. He'd heard some good Charlie stories from Jayson Werth, a 2008 Phillies World Series winner who became a teammate in Washington. And he'd previously been quoted as saying the hard-nosed Bowa was the type of guy he'd like to play for.

"I was talking to him and I told him he was one of the guys I wanted to play for growing up," Harper said. "Larry Bowa, Lou Piniella, those guys that are super fiery and passionate about the game. So it's a fun thing to be able to see him, see Charlie Manuel.

"You hear all those stories about Charlie and how he was with the '08 team and throughout that whole run. It's good to be able to put a voice to the face and be able to talk to those guys and see the old-school style of the game come through a little bit, and it's a lot of fun to be able to pick their brains."

Harper plays with a ferocity that Philadelphia fans - old school or new school - will like.

But what will they like the most?

"Hitting those balls about 450 feet," Bowa said.

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