- Bryce Harper returns to D.C. tonight after signing with the Phillies in the offseason. It's an immediate return, but let's look back at some of his most memorable times with the organization that raised him.
As Bryce Harper prepares for his (rather immediate) return to Nationals Park as a member of the Phillies, the SI.com staff recalled the numerous highlights that the youthful Harper compiled during his seven seasons in Washington. After his heartfelt Instagram message this morning, Harper will likely receive mixed reactions when he first faces ex-teammate Max Scherzer. But even those booing him will remember the good times with one of the most tantalizing talents to ever take the field.
— Under two years after he was drafted first overall in the 2010 amatuer draft, Bryce Harper made his MLB debut in Los Angeles against the Dodgers at 19 years old. Harper scorched a double off of Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley and over centerfielder Matt Kemp's head in just his third career at-bat. He also had a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the ninth inning and uncorked an incredible throw from leftfield that should have gone for an assist, but was dropped by catcher Wilson Ramos.
— It was a memorable first inning for a baby-faced Bryce Harper in his eighth career game. Facing then-Phillies ace Cole Hamels for the first time, Harper was hit with the first pitch, which Hamels later said was intentional. After advancing to third on a Jayson Werth single, the teenage Harper stole up the first base of his career. When Hamels attemped to pick Werth off first base, Harper broke for home and slid in safety.
— The Nationals lost to the Giants in the 2014 National League Division Series despite Harper's tremendous performance. He batted .294 with three home runs in the four-game series, including these two moonshots off righthander Hunter Strickland.
— How impressive were those two homers? They left quite the mark on Strickland, who waited more than two years before seeking vengeance. On Memorial Day 2017, Strickland drilled Harper right in the hip with a 98-mph fastball on the first pitch of the at-bat. From there it was on. Harper charged the mound, threw his helmet at Strickland (and completely missed) before they both exchanged punches to the face. It Strickland was suspended six games for the ugly incident, while Harper's four-game suspension was reduced to three after an appeal. The fracas functionally ended the career of Michael Morse, who injured his shoulder after colliding with teammate Jeff Samardzija, but it may be remembered as the brawl with the most amount of hair per head of its participants.
— It wasn't just Strickland who took issue with Harper. Another one of baseball's most ornery and controversial figures, Jonathan Papelbon, commenced one of the ugliest and most notorious dugout scraps of the last decade after questioning Harper's effort.
— Harper's 2015 season remains one of the best individual seasons since Barry Bonds retired. Worth an astonishing 10.0 WAR, Harper earned every first-place vote for NL MVP, compiled a 198 OPS+ and a career-high 188 runs. It was a season of utter brilliance that delivered the promise that so many expected from the young star.
— The 2017 NLDS is a series that most Nationals fans would probably like to forget, but Harper's mammoth home run off of Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. in Game 2 sent the Washington crowd into one of the biggest frenzies it has ever had.
— Harper's last season with the Nationals was a disappointing one for both him and the franchise. After a poor first half, Harper represented the Nats when they hosted the Home Run Derby. Never one to shy from the spotlight, Harper put on a show. Decked in Nationals and American flag apparel and his father Ron pitching to him, Harper crushed 45 homer runs to win the derby.
— Most highlights we remember of Harper are of him hitting missiles with his coil-spring swing. His arm, however, has produced some of his most incredible highlights.