The 2022 World Series Is Still Fresh For Bryce Harper
Ever wonder what your favorite athlete does when they just aren't playing very well? Do they watch a Will Ferrell comedy? Play Mario Kart with their kids? Suffer a fit of deep, existential angst? We wanted to know, too. Welcome to How I Take a Loss.
For our latest edition, we talked to Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper, who is currently in the thick of rehab for the most infamous sports surgery of them all: Tommy John. Not the most fun ordeal when you're trying to avenge a loss to the Houston Astros, of all teams, in the World Series. But Harper has other things going on. Being a father, for one. Plus, the man even developed his own Gatorade bottle, as part of the brand's Gx Fuel Tomorrow Collection. And, yeah, he's focused on avenging the loss and making Philly proud.
ESQUIRE: Bryce, how's your offseason going?
BRYCE HARPER: It's been real good. I'm in Vegas. Born and raised here, so I usually come back home. [I'm] just hanging out with the family and enjoying that time with them. I got two little ones, so I’m running around with them every day and trying to enjoy as much as I can before the season and all the craziness starts.
I wish non-sporting careers worked like that. I would love to go back to Pittsburgh for a couple months every year.
Beautiful ballpark, so you guys got that working for you. Cutch coming back is going to be big for you guys. I love Cutch. He's a great human being.
How's your recovery going?
I really try to take it day by day, because it's such a long process. My brother's gone through Tommy John surgery, and a lot of friends have gone through it. If I'm sore, or if I'm feeling really good, I'm grateful for the process. So I don't think there's any rush behind what I'm trying to do. The biggest thing is just being healthy and making sure my mind's good and my body's good. When that time comes for me to start doing certain things in the baseball category, then we'll be there.
How hard has the mental side been for you?
You find the gratitude with it. Of course, I want to be getting to spring training, be around my team, things like that. I have the itch to go out and hit—but at the same time, it's okay. I'm going to get to that point. But I enjoy being at home and being around my family, and learning new things outside of just baseball.
What have you been doing with your kids?
My kids just started gymnastics yesterday, so that's pretty cool. They’re two and three years old, so they're running around and jumping on the tramps. I’m teaching my son how to ride a bike. Waking up and getting them breakfast and being a dad. During the season I can't do that. You miss certain things. So I see the changes in them—how much taller they're getting, the words that they're saying, or their attitude adjustments.
When I was prepping for this, I thought a lot about your “Chosen One” cover for Sports Illustrated. Did you feel like that was a lot of pressure for a 16-year-old kid?
It was just always a stepping stone to my next thing. From the time I started when I was 10, 11 years old, I always had the expectations of trying to be great. But I had an incredible dad and mom that kept me on that path of: "Go out and ride your skateboard, you can get away from the game and not just be so surrounded by it all the time." I had getaways.
Once I knew I needed to get back to work, I'd get back to work, but my parents never really pushed me to do something that I didn't want to do. It was more: "Hey, you want to be great at what you want to do? We can't pay for you to get into school. You have to go and earn a scholarship in the classroom and on the baseball field." Those were the main reasons why me and my brother played, because this is our way out of getting into college. The Sports Illustrated article, it was another article at the time. Of course, it was very big. Being on the cover, I was very excited. [Tom] Verducci did a great job. But it came with expectations and I totally understood that.
Even talking to Steph Curry for this column, he was someone who was struggling and figuring himself out right up until he was drafted. It seems like you need a certain level of maturity early on to succeed to that extent.
I don't know if I was too mature. I wanted to be great at everything that I did—and if baseball never would've worked out, I probably would've worked for my dad and tried to be the best ironworker I could be. It's the effort that you put in, the mindset that you put in, understanding what you want to do and who you want to be and that you can always continue to grow and be better.
What else did your dad teach you growing up?
It was watching my parents work the way they did. My dad waking up at three in the morning to get to work—and working until 2:00 in the afternoon. Then he’d pick me up from school, take me to practice, and throw to me. And then going to bed at nine at night, and getting back up at two with never a waiver of doubt.
It's really hard to be the person who always shows up.
Nobody's perfect, right? Shit happens, but don't let it happen too often. Be there for your kids, or be there for your wife, or be there for your teammates, trying to lift them up and build them up. That's what it's all about.
Let’s get to the World Series. What happens after the last out in Game Six?
So game six, we lose. I come up the tunnel, pack my bag, change, say goodbye to teammates at that time. But I remember after the game I said to the media, "I'm excited about next year—because I know that after losing this, everyone has gotten a taste, so they're going to try everything in their power to get us back to this moment." Houston was a great team. They had great pitching, timely hitting, and they just beat us. Getting back from the clubhouse, I got on the bus and I was one of the first guys out. So I got back, gave my wife a hug, and was upset—but was also looking forward to that next season.
The biggest thing in baseball—and you can say this with every sport—is you're never going to have the same team again. Every team is always going to be different. So you have a group of guys that could have won a World Series or got into the playoffs, and that will be the only time that that team will ever be together. You're sad about the emotional toll of not having the guys with you that you just battled with all year. But I gave my kids hugs and of course they're screaming, "Daddy!" They're excited and happy. So you just have to understand that sometimes that happens—and you're grateful for the moment and the opportunity to be there. We didn't get the job done. We all know that. We're on that unfinished business tour this year, and we're excited to hopefully get those two more wins and be World Champs.
Tell me a little bit about the bottle you made.
Being able to collab with Gatorade on this has been really cool for me. The bottle is personalized to me—what I love to do and who I love in my life—eating right, taking care of my body, and just enjoying life. My family is my main thing that really keeps me going, so my family's featured throughout the entire bottle. My wife, she has a crown with a K in it, my son has a monster truck since he loves monster trucks, my daughter has cookies because we call her Brookie-Cookie. And then when I hit homers, I do the I love you symbol. Being able to kind of share this moment with them is really cool.
One last one before we go. The baseball fight is the greatest fight in all of sports. Since this is the losing column: are there winners and losers in a baseball fight, or does everybody just lose because they’re getting beat up?
[Laughs] In any sport—hockey or anything—both guys are just going at it and it is what it is. It's over from there. I don't know. I'm not really sure. I don't think there's a winner or a loser unless you're in a boxing ring or a UFC ring. Right?
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