Thursday is opening day of the 2019 Major League Baseball season, and among the most important storylines is the debut of Bryce Harper with his new team, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Harper, who had played his entire career before this season with the Washington Nationals, signed a 13-year, $330 million free agent contract with the Phillies on March 31. Following the end of a four-month free agent odyssey that had tons of twists and turns, per this Inquisitr timeline, Harper chose Philadelphia, for what was at the time the largest contract in baseball history. Mike Trout would overtake that number the following month when he re-signed with the Los Angeles Angels for $430 million.
In a lot of ways, Harper is the most-watched player in baseball. After signing with the Phillies, Harper broke the single-day sales record for all sports jerseys, per MLB.com, overtaking LeBron James. And Thursday, per ESPN.com, Harper now has the highest-selling jersey in Major League Baseball, ending a two-year reign by the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge.
But it’s not just jerseys. Harper is on the cover of MLB The Show, the league’s official video game, although the release of the cover was delayed by Harper’s extended search for a new team. Harper, along with teammates Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, and Aaron Nola, is also on the cover of Sports Illustrated‘s annual baseball preview issue. And Harper received a new endorsement deal from Acuvue contact lens, per Forbes.
Not all Harper news has been good, as a survey of Major League Baseball players by The Athletic found that Harper’s peers view him as the majors’ most overrated player, with 62 percent of players naming Harper. Harper did receive votes, though, as one of the most intimidating hitters in the game.
“It’s marketing. It’s star power. But what has he done besides have one year?” an anonymous player in the survey said.
On his Instagram account this week, Harper expressed his excitement about his arrival in Philadelphia.
“How I longed to see these things; how I longed to see the Liberty Bell and party on the streets where Bobby Clarke, Nick “BD” Foles, and Chase Utley had partied!” Harper said.
The “party on the streets” was presumably a reference to the idea of a post-championship parade in Philadelphia, which was previously enjoyed by those players when the Flyers, Eagles, and Phillies won championships. NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk described this post, however, as “pandering hard to Philly fans.”