Bryce Harper has a future in the booth, if he wants one.
The Philadelphia Phillies slugger, who is getting closer to returning to the team after breaking his thumb in June, joined Tom McCarthy and John Kruk on NBC Sports Philadelphia during Thursday’s win over the Washington Nationals. It was Harper’s first time sitting behind a microphone during a game, and he suggested it might not be his last.
“It’s been a blast,” Harper said. “Maybe I’ll be back before I come back and play.”
In addition to updating viewers on his status — he hopes to return in September — Harper spent the game chatting about everything from his favorite player to watch (Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner) to his love of the Phillies’ powder blue throwback uniforms. He also had nothing but praise for former Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, the broadcasting icon who died this week at age 94.
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But he was especially informative during game action. When Rhys Hoskins blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning off Paolo Espino to tie the game, Harper praised the first baseman’s approach.
“What a great swing. He’s so good when he’s staying through the baseball,” Harper said. “I mean, it’s such an impressive at-bat when he’s staying through the ball, going to right-center. Then that just accidentally happens.
“Espino’s a guy that’s going to go out there and try to get you off-balance, and get you away from your swing,” Harper added. “Rhys just stayed on that ball and hit it to left so well.”
During the second inning, Harper touched on the recent success of Alec Bohm, who struggled earlier in the season and drew the ire of Phillies fans after television cameras caught him saying “I (expletive) hate this place” after the crowd mocked him for making a routine play. Harper was happy to see Bohm in the dugout talking things over with new Phillies center fielder Brandon Marsh.
“I love that he’s sitting on the bench right here talking about this right now, because he’s involved in the game, he’s understanding the game,” Harper said of Bohm. “He wants to be so good, and I love that mentality out of him, but he’s going to struggle. It’s OK to struggle. I think you have to learn that.”
Harper was especially pleased in the third inning, when Bohm blasted a three-run bomb to left field to give the Phillies a 5-2 lead. It was Bohm’s eighth home run of the season, a new career high, and he’s batting .417 over the last 15 games.
Harper also had some thoughts on new Phillies pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who is known for giving up stolen bases. In fact, Nationals third baseman Maikel Franco stole second base on Syndergaard in the second inning, his first steal of the season.
“He’s got that motion where he comes up, and it’s just the way he pitches,” Harper said. “That’s where he gets his leverage and his length and stuff, and it’s maybe something that J.T. [Realmuto] can talk to him about.”
If the reaction on social media is any indicator, Phillies fans were thrilled with Harper’s first stint in the booth. McCarthy, always playful on Twitter, highlighted one of the few complaints he received about the broadcast.
“I have to respect the booth, guys,” Harper said.
“Yeah, someday we’ll start,” Kruk joked.