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What I am Listening to: Bob Nightengale was once in attendance for Bryce Harper’s introductory press convention for the Philadelphia Phillies. He says it was once made transparent what the expectancies are for this 12 months and past.
USA TODAY

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The enthusiasts had been coated up outdoor the price tag gates Saturday morning, 5 hours sooner than sport time to look Bryce Harper. They packed each and every corner and crevice of Spectrum Box, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder within the grass berm, with a sellout crowd of 10,276 screaming his identify each and every time they stuck a glimpse of him.

The Philadelphia Phillies, from veterans to inexperienced persons, stored speaking all morning a few buzz they’ve by no means felt sooner than in spring working towards. Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney flew into the town for the development. Phillies proprietor John Middleton was once choosing up baseballs after batting follow rounds. Philadelphia Eagles Corridor of Status protection Brian Dawkins got here in to talk to the group, grabbed the microphone sooner than the sport and screamed: “Yeaaaaah, child!

Oh, it was once a Harper’s Bazaar spectacle, lacking best boxing promoter Don King and Rocky, with Harper strolling to the plate within the first inning to the “Recent Prince of Bel Air” theme track. 

“I assumed it’d be a laugh for spring working towards,’’ Harper stated. He plans to introduce a brand new walk-up track for the common season.

The group went bonkers, status and cheering all sport, preventing best after he walked for the second one time.

“Weren’t those the similar enthusiasts simply booing you a few years in the past?’’ Harper laughed, recalling a dialog with some of the Phillies’ staffers. “It was once superior … The ovation they gave me, I used to be very humbled, very blessed. It simply displays you the way nice a fanbase Philly actually is. While you put Phillies throughout your chest, it actually way one thing to those other folks.’’

They without a doubt had Harper’s again, vehemently booing the Toronto Blue Jays’ pitching workforce for strolling Harper in his first two at-bats. The Jays even hired a four-outfielder shift when the depend reached two moves.

It was once a primary, stated Harper. And optimistically, he stated, the closing.

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“I’ve by no means noticed that. Intense,” he stated.

Does he envision extra groups going to such an excessive?

“Guy, I’m hoping no longer. I don’t know. In the event that they’re going to play ball like that … for sure other, needless to say.’’

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In a different way, it was once a wonderful 83-degree debut for Harper, who was once used best as a DH and is scheduled to play proper box on Monday. Just a week in the past, he was once formally signing his report 13-year, $330 million contract, with a information convention atop the first-base Phillies dugout. Now, he has morphed into the reincarnation of Mike Schmidt.

“Lovely superior,’’ Phillies supervisor Gabe Kapler stated. “Lovely electrical setting. He gave the look of Bryce Harper as we noticed him in a Nationals uniform.

“He appears to be like a lot better in a Phillies uniform.’’

Harper no longer best is a richer guy since becoming a member of the Phillies, however so are the Phillies. They’ve bought 340,000 seats since Harper joined the group, together with 2,000 season tickets, and introduced Harper advertisements all through telecasts in Philadelphia. Harper’s jerseys are being bought at a report charge, promoting extra within the first 24 hours than any jersey ever bought in sports activities historical past. They may be able to’t even stay the jersey of their group retailer at Electorate Financial institution Park, with their preliminary products stock already long gone.

“I don’t suppose any one will have predicted that it could be as unusual as it’s,” Phillies proprietor John Middleton instructed USA TODAY Sports activities. “I’ve were given to inform you, while you call to mind main moments in Phillies historical past, bringing in any person from the outdoor — getting Pete Rose in ’79, buying and selling for Cliff Lee in ’09, Document (Halladay) in 2010, re-signing Cliff in ’11 — that is even larger than that.

Bryce Harper walked two times in his spring working towards debut with the Phillies. (Picture: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports activities)

“All of the ones different strikes had been made when the Phillies had been actually just right. However this has created a buzz a few group that hasn’t had a successful season since 2011. Enthusiasts are having a look at this like, ‘You’re credible now.’ Now we have that credibility we didn’t have a 12 months in the past. They imagine in us now.

“And with Bryce no longer having an out clause, and a complete no-trade clause, the enthusiasts sense a big dedication. This man actually desires to be right here.” 

And oh, does Philly ever love its stars, specifically those that play with emotion, whether or not it’s Bobby Clarke in hockey, Julius Erving or Allen Iverson in basketball or Dawkins in soccer.

“It’s some of the issues that pulls other folks to him,’’ stated Dawkins. “He performs with emotion. Some other folks don’t adore it. It’s a type of issues in baseball you’re no longer intended to do. However Bryce demanding situations that. In point of fact, he’s the Reggie Jackson of 4 a long time in the past. You’ll be able to love him. You’ll be able to hate him. However guy, you positive aren’t going to forget about him.”

Talking of Reggie…

“He attracts consideration,’’ Reggie Jackson instructed USA TODAY Sports activities. “It’s a part of his vanity, his self-assuredness, his cockiness. He’s were given that massive swing, the entire strikes, the hair, the entirety. All of that stuff that pulls consideration.’’

Harper without a doubt attempted to place on a display, taking an enormous minimize however lacking at the first pitch he noticed from Blue Jays starter Matt Shoemaker, however hi there — he’ll have quite a lot of alternatives for homers after they depend within the common season.

“I were given excited a bit of bit,’’ Harper stated, guffawing.

Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta, who began Saturday, stated he may hardly ever imagine this was once a spring-training sport.

“Everyone was once rowdy on the pregame,’’ Arrieta stated. “And screaming at me. It’s going to be a just right summer season.’’

Now all of the Phillies need to do is play the type of baseball they envision, led by means of the person they’re paying all of that cash, in hopes of without equal prize.

“I’m simply having a look ahead to being a part of one thing larger than myself and any one on this clubhouse,” Harper stated. “I’m simply going to head available in the market and be Bryce and play the sport that I like.’’

And, simply possibly, hit in opposition to groups using best 3 outfielders.

Practice Bob Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale

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