Bryce Harper will be returning to Nationals Park for the rest of his career, just not the way Nats fans were thinking.
Harper, 26, will be wearing Phillies gray for three trips a year into Washington, starting Tuesday night. Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with National League East rival Philadelphia, leaving the only major league city he’s called home.
Harper will wear No. 3 with the Phillies after wearing No. 34 for the Nationals. Harper’s jersey is baseball’s hottest-selling uniform this season, beating the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has had the best-selling uniform the past two seasons.
Harper’s seven seasons in D.C. were defined by a hate-or-love him mentality, a fence-crashing intensity, monster home runs and hair flips.
He spent time on the disabled list, had untimely ejections and had a years-long feud with former Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland that ended in a helmet-tossing brawl in San Francisco.
Harper was never intimidated, not even as a 19-year-old rookie. On May 6, 2012, in his sixth game at Nationals Park, Phillies lefty Cole Hamels in the first inning hit Harper with a 93 mph fastball. A few minutes later, Harper stole home against Hamels - his first steal as a big leaguer - and glared at Hamels on his way to the dugout.
That season, Harper beat Arizona pitcher Wade Miley to become the NL Rookie of the Year, hitting .270 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs. Three years later, at 23, Harper was the unanimous NL MVP, hitting 42 home runs with 118 RBIs, a .460 on-base percentage and a .649 slugging percentage.
There is a list of Harper’s most memorable home runs, including five on opening day.
His first big-league home run came at Nationals Park on May 14, 2012 against San Diego’s Tim Stauffer. A crowd of 19,434 watched and afterward, Harper said, “I hope it is the first of many.’‘
Turned out it was.
Harper’s first walk-off came on Aug. 7, 2014, a two-run shot in the bottom of the 13th to beat the Mets.
He hit a 445-foot home run in Game 1 of the 2014 NL Division Series against the Cubs, a blast that is marked by a red seat in the right field upper deck at Nats Park.
On May 6, 2015, Harper, at 22, hit three home runs in a game at Nationals Park against the Marlins’ Tom Koehler.
No. 100 for Harper? What else, but a grand slam on April 4, 2016 that broke a panel in the right field scoreboard at Nationals Park?
The grand finale came last July, when he hit nine home runs in the last 50 seconds to beat the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber and win the All-Star Home Run Derby, sending the crowd of 43,698 at Nationals Park into a frenzy.
Harper, who struck out swinging and looking in his final two at-bats at Nationals Park, was a first-round draft pick in 2010 and a six-time All-Star as a National.
He hit .279 with 184 home runs during his time in Washington, 92 at home and 92 on the road.
Nationals fans wanted Harper to be a one-team superstar in D.C.
Still, seven seasons of No. 34 will not be forgotten, especially with the Phillies and Nationals playing up to 19 times a season.