PHILADELPHIA — Bryce Harper wanted to say something on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park, but he did not know exactly how he wanted to say it.
So he spoke from the heart.
The Phillies celebrated Harper’s 2021 NL MVP season before a 4-2 victory over the A’s. They played highlights on Phanavision. Phillies managing partner John Middleton and three-time NL MVP Mike Schmidt presented Harper his MVP trophy on the field, with his wife Kayla and their two children seated nearby.
Then Harper spoke. He thanked his wife, children, parents, teammates, coaches, Jesus and Phillies fans.
He fought back tears at one point.
But before he finished, he punctuated his speech with a final message to everybody, from the 41,622 fans in the stands to his teammates watching from the dugout.
“Let’s have a great year,” he said. “And let’s go have a party on Broad Street.”
They know Broad Street means a World Series championship. They know Broad Street means a parade.
Well, not everybody. Not everybody is from Philadelphia, after all. And some folks are new to town.
“He must have said the right thing,” right-hander Kyle Gibson said. “Because I have no idea where that street is.”
Told that he might drive on Broad Street every day, Gibson smiled.
“Maybe I am [going to], apparently I am,” he said. “I’ll figure that out.”
Nick Castellanos is in the same boat as Gibson. The outfielder played in Philadelphia only twice in his career before he joined the Phillies last month. He said he is unfamiliar with the city’s main artery.
“I don’t, but apparently all the fans do,” Castellanos said, smiling.
Told that it is where he will be if the Phillies win the World Series, he said, “So if the Eagles win the Super Bowl, it’s Broad Street also?”
The Phillies improved to 2-0 in their season-opening weekend because of big performances on Saturday from Gibson and Castellanos. Gibson struck out 10 and walked none in seven scoreless innings. He allowed two hits. Castellanos crushed a first-pitch fastball to center field for a two-run home run in the first inning to hand the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
Castellanos’ shot immediately followed Harper getting hit by a pitch on his left elbow by A’s left-hander Cole Irvin.
“It felt good, man,” Castellanos said. “It felt fantastic. Honestly. It put us up ahead in the first. And to answer Bryce getting hit by a pitch. It’s my job.”
Rhys Hoskins and Jean Segura hit back-to-back homers in the sixth to give the Phillies insurance.
Saturday was how the Phillies might imagine this season going, with the rotation and lineup leading the way. Before they signed Kyle Schwarber and Castellanos last month, they considered their rotation to be their greatest strength with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez, Zach Eflin and Gibson. They are five starters with the ability to pitch six or more innings every night.
In two games, the starters have struck out 17 and walked none in 13-plus innings.
The lineup has lived up to the hype, too.
It is why people are excited. Hoskins talked about it on Opening Day, saying how everything in the ballpark felt different.
“There’s a really good feeling in that clubhouse about this club,” Joe Girardi said.
Harper feels it. Maybe it was why Broad Street popped into his head. Because Broad Street has been on his mind for years. He said at his introductory news conference in Clearwater, Fla., in March 2019 that he heard stories about the 2008 parade from former Nationals teammate Jayson Werth.
“J-Dub always talks about Broad Street and his stupid little thing that he had, a red glove or whatever it was,” Harper said that afternoon.
So he mentioned it again on Saturday. Why not?
“I was just going. Right?” he said. “It sounded good. It came to mind. I think we’re all just excited about this team. We’re ready to go. We’re excited to play. If that’s not the main goal, then we shouldn’t have shown up to Spring Training.
“We all want to get back there. This whole organization, the fans, the city of Philadelphia. I think they all want to get back there.”
Harper might have to show his teammates how to get there.
“They’ll figure it out hopefully by the end of the year,” he said.