Bryce Harper:Mormon Athlete
Bryce Aron Max Harper is a professional baseball right fielder for the Philadelphia Phillies. On March 2, 2019, he signed a 13-year $330 million contract with the Phillies. He has been called a five-tool player. He debuted in Major League Baseball in 2012, playing for the Washington Nationals.
Harper was born on October 16, 1992, in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has one brother. He attended Las Vegas High School and earned his GED after his sophomore year, so he could begin his professional baseball career early. At the age of 16, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a headline that read "Baseball's Chosen One." The story mentioned that he attended "religious education classes nearly every morning" (Seminary).
He attended the College of Southern Nevada, which was part of the Scenic West Athletic Conference. As an amateur player, he played with bats that he had emblazoned with "Luke 1:37," which reads, "For with God nothing shall be impossible." On June 2, 2010, he was ejected from a National Junior College World Series game after the home plate empire called third strike. Harper drew a line in the dirt with his bat as he left the plate, presumably to show where he thought the pitch was. Because this was his second ejection for the year, he was suspended for two games. Southern Nevada was eliminated from the tournament during his suspension, which ended Harper’s amateur career. He was named the 2010 SWAC Player of the Year and won the 2010 Golden Spikes Award.
Harper was the first overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. Although he had previously played catcher, the Nationals drafted him as outfielder to extend his career and accelerate his player development. He signed a five-year contract worth $9.9 million. He left the Nationals after the 2018 season.
He played in the Nationals’ fall instructional league and was selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League as a member of the Scottsdale Scorpions taxi-squad. The Nationals optioned him to the Hagerstown Suns to begin his minor-league career. Because of a slow start, he visited an optometrist who fitted him with contact lenses, which improved his stats.
He represented the U. S. in the 2011 All-Star Futures Game. He was promoted to the Double-A Harrisburg Senators in July 2011. In August he injured his hamstring and had to be carried off the field. The injury kept him out for the season.
During 2012 spring training, Harper was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and started the season there playing center field. On April 27, 2012, he was called up to the Nationals and made his MLB debut the next day against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was the first teenager to steal home plate since 1964, and the youngest player to homer in the major leagues since 1998.
During a game against the Toronto Blue Jays in June 2012, he hit a deep home run to center field that struck an advertising banner adjacent to the restaurant in the second tier of seats (an estimated distance of 438 feet). After the game, a reporter asked if Harper would take advantage of Ontario’s lower drinking age (19 instead of the U.S. 21) by drinking a beer with his teammates. Harper is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and does not drink alcohol. He replied, “I’m not going to answer that. That’s a clown question, bro.” His comment developed into an Internet meme, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used it in response to a question he was asked. Harper filed an application to trademark the phrase.
Harper became the third youngest player to make an All-Star roster. He was named 2012 National League Rookie of the Year.
In 2013, Harper became the youngest major league player to hit two home runs in his team’s first game of the season. He received his second career All-Star selection. And was selected to participate in the 2013 Home Run Derby. During the off season he had left knee surgery to remove a bursa sac.
Harper suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb on April 25, 2014, after sliding into third base, which required surgery.
As of May 2015, Harper hit his tenth home run in twelve games, making it also his 15th in 40 games. He hit his 40th home run in September 2015, which moved him into elite status in the MLB. The Washington Post called him '"one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball." Baseball America named Bryce the 2015 player of the year. On October 31, Harper was named the National League winner of the 2015 Hank Aaron Award. On November 19, Harper was selected as the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player by unanimous decision. With his MVP win, Harper became the youngest player to unanimously to win the MVP at age 23. Harper also became the first player in Nationals/Expos history to win an MVP award, and the first player that played for a Washington team to win one. ESPN chose him as their 2015 MLB Person of the Year Wikipedia.org
- We know Church members and priesthood holders who have experienced success at the highest levels of professional athletics. There are many good examples, but I can list only a few here for the sake of time. You might recognize some of these athletes: in baseball, Jeremy Guthrie and Bryce Harper; in basketball, Jabari Parker and Jimmer Fredette; in soccer, Ricardo Rojas; in rugby league, William Hopoate; and in football, Taysom Hill and Daniel Sorensen. Each has made significant contributions to his sport.
- While they are extremely successful in their sports, these athletes would be the first to admit they are not perfect athletes or perfect human beings. They work hard to be the best in their sport—and to live the gospel. They get up if they stumble, and they strive to endure to the end.
He later quoted Harper as saying: “I thought fame, fortune, and an MVP award would make me happy. Something was missing. So, I . . . prepared and [entered] the temple. I am now on a path to [return] to my Heavenly Father and have an eternal family—which is the greatest joy in the world!”
In the fall of 2022, Bryce Harper played a major role in the Philadelphia Phillies reaching the World Series. Harper, the National League Championship Series (NLCS) MVP, hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning to give the Phillies the lead in a series-clinching 4-3 win. In the five-game series, the 30-year-old Harper hit 8 of 20 from the plate with two home runs, three doubles, five RBIs and four runs scored.
During his postgame press conference after the win, Harper talked about what his family means to him — he is a father of two and married his high school sweetheart (former BYU soccer player Kayla Varner) in 2016.
“I’m so lucky to have the parents that I do, I’m so lucky to have my beautiful wife and kids that support me each day as well. (I have) teammates in there that aren’t just teammates but some of my best friends,” he told reporters.