Back in 2009, Sports Illustrated featured Bryce Harper in a cover story and called him the LeBron James of baseball. The craziest part? He was only 16.
Later the first overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft, the Las Vegas native has done just about everything to live up to the hype. Enter a laundry list of accolades: youngest guy to ever play in an All-Star game, 2012 Rookie of the Year recipient, 2015 Most Valuable Player at only 22-years-old—it’s pretty much superhuman.
After an unprecedented off-season as a free agent, the 26-year-old right fielder added another accomplishment to the list: landing a record-breaking $330 million, 13-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies—the biggest guaranteed contract in the history of North American sports until the L.A. Angels signed fellow mega-star Mike Trout to a $430 million extension shortly afterward to dash any hopes of a team-up in Philly after 2020.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Harper, who recently announced his partnership with Acuvue Oasys with Transitions (he tells us he wears them both on and off the field and they’ve helped him squint less and see better when he needs it most), to talk about the big deal, how he handles the haters, and his most important pre-game rituals.
He also admits that he’s yet to have a Philly cheesesteak, which might change in the immediate future. After giving fans some local love with his choice of Opening Day cleats, it’s clear that he’s making a point to make his new city his own.
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MH: Things are kind of crazy these days, huh?
BH: Definitely a crazy off-season. But I’m very, very happy where I’m at and very excited to be in a new city, around some new folks. I’m just looking forward to what’s to come. I look forward to being in front of new fans who are totally awesome, a new team, uniform—things like that.
Can you believe where you’re at right now?
You know, I just loved baseball growing up. I loved sports growing up. I’m just really doing something I love, and I’m able to do that every single day. I got the long-term benefits of being in the in a city for a long period of time. For me it was all about where I could build a family, where I could be with an organization that really cares about and understands their players. It really means something, you know, to have the Phillies across your chest.
Aside from talent, what else has gotten you to this point in your career?
Staying on the right path. Remembering where I came from. Having the parents that I do, the wife that I do. I’m surrounded by a great team of people that care about me on a personal level. When I was younger, there were plenty of times that I’d go to hit instead of going to a party. So putting things in perspective each day, doing the things that I could to be the best person I could be on and off the field.
You’re obviously getting constant, sometimes unsolicited, feedback about the decisions you’re making with your career. How do you stay so grounded and in your decisions when so many people have an opinion on what you’re doing?
I don’t go on Twitter for a reason. I have my guy do it for me, I don’t want to listen to people talk about me. Everybody always has an opinion. Everybody has a platform now, because the Twitter or Instagram or anything like that. So for me, I stay away from it and I stay in my lane. I stay with the people that I love. I stay around the people that I enjoy being around. It’s a very small group of friends, and we’re always positive—that’s the biggest thing. If you want to be around me, we’re going to be positive. We’re going to enjoy waking up every single day, being who we are, and try to be great at what we do.
That’s a good philosophy to have.
Yeah, I mean—nobody’s perfect. Everybody’s going to go through lows and valleys and things like that. But if you go about life the right way, treat people with respect, that’s all that matters. Sure, I’m going to struggle on the baseball field. I’m going to struggle off the field, too. It’s just part of life. I have to remember that baseball is just a game. It’s not who I am. It’s just what I do. Every day, I get to do what I love, and that’s what it’s all about.
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Talk to me a little bit about what a typical day of training looks like, starting with what time you’re waking up in the morning?
During the season I’m up between 11:30 a.m. and 12 o’clock, since we get home so late. Some nights, we don’t even have dinner until around one in the morning. I try to sleep as much and as often as I can. I’m usually at the field by 2:30, 3 o’clock. I get my treatment in, work out, and do whatever needs to get done before batting practice. Then we all hit, throw, stretch as a team. I come back in, I eat, hang out for a bit, and do a full-blown workout right before the game. Then, I go out and play.
Full-blown workout before playing?
It’s usually like 25 to 30 minutes of high intensity. This way, I’m firing every single muscle in my body and I’m doing everything I can to get things going in the right way. It helps me when I’m out on the field. Granted, the things that work right for me, they may not work for somebody else. But I’m finding the things that work for me. And granted, it’s the same thing over and over and over again during the season. So you better like the routine that you’re in, or you picked the wrong profession.
When there are tens of thousands of people watching your every move, how do you stay focused mentally on the task at hand?
The field, that’s my sanctuary where I love to be. It’s somewhere where I’m very calm and nobody can really interfere with what I do. I really enjoy being in front of 45,000 people a night, screaming and yelling with their children. I enjoy going out there and being a baseball player and doing what I do. It definitely takes a lot out of you in those three-and-a-half hours that you do play—mentally and physically. It’s a grind for 162 games. But I’d rather be on a baseball field than doing anything else.
Any mantras you go back to?
This sounds funny, but I try not to think at all. The more you think, the worse you are. I want to feel, you know, what I do and how I do it. I’m not trying to get into my own way. I just want to do the things that can help my team win.
What about your diet? Strict, or nah?
I’m about 90 percent gluten-free, dairy-free. And I say that because there are definitely times where I grab a cup of ice cream and I just can’t help myself. But otherwise, I’m just trying to eat healthy consistently. I’m constantly doing tests to figure out what’s going to help my body recover faster, what’s not going to help my body recover faster. I eat the rainbow, pretty much. That’s what we call it. Eat organic grass fed, non-GMO, nitrate free the best I can. And you know, I love juicing [Harper says he digs turmeric and apple blends] and things like that. Bulletproof coffee. Kombucha. Tart cherry juice. Turmeric shots. A lot of water. A lot of beverages.
You have an opportunity right now to offer a piece of advice to that 16-year-old everyone’s watching. What do you tell him, the guy that’s just starting out?
I got so caught up in having to do this, having to do that, at 19 years old. I had to grow up in front of a million people on the highest stage in sports. I would tell him to just be himself. Be who you are. I wish I wouldn’t have done some of the things that I did, but like I said, I was young. I’m happy as heck with what I’ve been doing and who I am. I look forward to the next 15 years of what I do as a baseball player, on and off the field.
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