Updated 6:45 p.m.
It’s official. On Saturday, in a ceremony at the team’s Clearwater, Fla., spring training facility, star outfielder Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies — and instantly became the biggest name in Philadelphia sports.
There’s been plenty of baseball fan chatter about the prodigy’s potential signing over the past few months, but now that the record-breaking $330-million contract is real, Harper’s name is ricocheting around the city like a South Philly-made roman candle on the Fourth of July.
As a service to those trying to keep up with all the backstory, references, jokes, side projects and hopes and dreams, we’ve rounded up 18 things to know about Bryce Harper.
1) He left high school early to play ball
At age 16, the Las Vegas native was named Baseball America’s high school player of the year. The next year, he got his GED in order to become eligible for the June 2010 MLB draft. The Washington Nationals took him with the first overall pick, and he’s played in D.C. for the past six seasons.
Now 26, his 13-year contract means he’ll be playing for Philadelphia until he turns 39 years old.
2) He married his high school sweetheart, also an athlete
Harper and his wife, born Kayla Varner, met in high school. Kayla, also 26, was a star soccer player at Green Valley High school in Henderson, Nevada, and went on to play for OSU. Around 2015, the relationship took a brief skid — at least publicly — when their scheduled wedding was called off.
But things eventually worked out, and a year later they got married at the giant San Diego temple of the Church of Latter-day Saints.
3) Mormon leaders grapple with his sexiness
Both Harpers are devout Mormons and regularly shout out the LDS church in their social media posts and interviews. Though he admits occasionally drinking coffee during games, Bryce abstains from alcohol — his response to a reporter asking him about booze, “That’s a clown question, bro,” went viral in 2012.
He generally follows the religion’s teachings, but his flamboyance has caused some LDS leaders consternation. It’s not considered appropriate to show off your hot naked bod in advertisements, for example. Despite that, he’s generally been embraced as someone who can break down Mormon stereotypes and make the church more accessible to modern youth.
4) He’s a six-time All-Star
In Harper’s second season with the Nats, at age 20, he was voted an All-Star Game starter, making him the youngest National League player to ever receive that honor. That appearance marked his second on the All-Star team, something he’d repeat four more times.
Among other notables: He was the 2012 Rookie of the Year, the 2015 National League MVP and winner of the 2018 Home Run Derby.
5) He and his agent held out for the 13-year contract
To many observers, the remarkable part of his contract is that it’s so long — 10 years is much more common for MLB stars of this caliber — and that it’s so solid. The deal he and agent Scott Boras finagled doesn’t include any opportunities for him or the Phillies to opt out.
“I want to be with one team,” Boras quoted his client as saying. The final arrangement didn’t come without a lot of effort on both sides (hence the months of speculations). According to Sports Illustrated, it was eventually clinched after Phillies owner John Middleton and his wife talked up Philly’s best features to Bryce and Kayla over a long dinner date.
“I wanted to be able to dig my roots somewhere,” Harper explained during his introductory press conference.
6) His net worth is estimated to be around $15 million
Another reason for the long contract: Boras and Harper were actively trying to break the record for most expensive MLB deal in history. Harper’s not hurting for money — his net worth is currently estimated to be around $15 million — but there’s plenty more coming his way.
According to the AP, his Phillies deal will break down like this:
- Year one: $10 million salary plus $20 million signing bonus paid in two installments
- 2020-28: $26 million annual salary
- 2029-31: $22 million annual salary
He could also get additional five-figure bonuses if he gets back to the All-Star Game or is named MVP again.
7) The Phillies have made bank since the signing
Shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the Phils to pay out those bonuses if this trend keeps up: in the two days since Harper’s signing was first reported, ticket sales skyrocketed.
The team sold a reported 100,000 tickets in the first 24 hours, and then 80,000 more the day after that.
8) Local taxpayers’ cut depends on where he lives
Will all this funny money benefit Philly somehow? Yes, thanks to the city’s wage tax — but how much the oft-maligned levy will reap varies greatly depending where Harper decides to live.
Per an Inquirer analysis, if Bryce and Kayla buy a home within Philadelphia, tax on the salary could bring $12.6 million to city coffers. If the couple opts for South Jersey, or keeps their primary residence in Vegas, only the salary portion applied to Harper’s home games will be taxable. That’d be around a $5.1 million take, per the Inky.
9) He’ll wear No. 3 out of respect for Halladay
With the Nats, Harper wore No. 34, and made it part of his identity. The number shows up in his social media handle (@Harper3407) and is even part of the logo for his bespoke Under Armor brand.
But on the Phillies, 34 was worn by the late pitcher Roy Halladay, to whom Harper deferred.
“I thought Roy Halladay should be the last one to wear it,” he told reporters. “He’s somebody in this game that’s greater than a lot of guys who ever played it. A Hall of Famer. Somebody who played the game the right way, was a great person, and was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
10) Jerseys are flying off the shelves
After a hustle to print them up in time for the signing, those No. 3 jerseys flew off the Citizens Bank Park shelves on Saturday. Aramark, which manages the official team store, has promised to try to keep them in stock, and has extended next week’s retail hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to meet demand.
If you want to snag one online, jerseys are available from $100 and up (regular tees start around $30). You won’t be alone — according to Fanatics, the jersey broke a record for number sold within the first 24 hours of launch. That’s of any player, in any sport 😳.
11) He’s all in with Philadelphia’s sports fanaticism
That people were eager to get on the Harper bandwagon came as no surprise to the slugger, who is all in on Philly’s sports fanaticism. During his press conference after being introduced, Harper shouted out the Flyers, Sixers and Eagles.
12) Other Philly pro athletes are pumped
Harper’s nod to other Philly sports was reciprocated, as it seems the city’s other pro players are as pumped as the fans.
Sixers legend Allen Iverson, who also wore No. 3, was psyched that his number has a very good chance of getting retired from the Phillies now. Current Sixer Jonah Bolden showed up for last night’s game dressed in classic Fightins gear.
13) He might bring Mike Trout to the Phillies
Part of what Harper wants to do is use his anchor status to recruit other great players to the team — potentially including Mike Trout. A South Jersey native and fixture at Eagles games during the offseason, Trout has just two years left on his contract with the L.A. Angels.
14) His barber shop/cocktail bar is opening in Center City
Back in 2008, Harper invested in a concept called the Blind Barber, a combination hair salon-slash-cocktail bar. The brand, for which Harper has been an active spokesperson, currently has locations in Chicago, L.A. and New York.
Now one is set to open in Philadelphia. According to The Inquirer, it’ll be at Juniper and Sansom in the historic Hale Building — the same building that sports a Meg Saligman “Eagles World Champions” mural (and is right next to the still-under-repair hole from a water main break last year).
15) He’s also an Instagram food influencer
Harper doesn’t drink alcohol, so being part-owner of a national bar might seem off-brand, but it fits right into his food influencer hobby. Along with Kayla, Bryce runs a classic “foodie” account on Instagram. It’s not the 1.5 million he has on his main account, but @harp.eats’ 34k followers is nothing to sneeze at.
16) His MLB video game cover is already out
It’s been known since last fall that Harper would grace the cover of the 2019 edition of MLB’s PlayStation video game, The Show. The artwork hadn’t yet been released because which uniform Harper would be wearing was an open question — but within hours after his signing became official, he tweeted out the final pic.
17) He’s still not sure about Gritty
When Harper and the Phillie Phanatic high-fived at the introductory press conference on Saturday, a new iconic sports duo was formed. How does he feel about the city’s other famous mascot?
“Gritty’s a little bit uglier than, ah, the Phanatic — so we’ll see what happens,” Harper told NBC Sports Philadelphia.
18) He’s gunning for a victory parade down Broad
Thanks to his former teammate Jayson Werth, who was part of the Phillies’ 2008 World Series squad before being traded to Washington, Harper knows this city is thirsty for championships. “I don’t think any city wins better,” Werth reportedly told him.
That jibes with Harper’s own goals. Though he initially had a slip of tongue and mentioned bringing a title back to D.C., his old hometown, he made up for it with his description of a potential victory parade.
“I want to be on Broad Street on a frickin’ boat or bus or whatever it is,” the newest Phillie said Saturday, “and hold a trophy over my head.”