The night Bryce Harper sent the Phillies to the World Series

Seventy minutes after hitting the most important home run of his life on Sunday, a two-run outburst that won the Philadelphia Phillies the National League Championship Series, Bryce Harper was in the center of the clubhouse, surrounded by his teammates as beer and champagne soaked anyone who came within spraying range.

“Give me everything, give me everything,” the series MVP shouted to his teammates. His wish was instantly granted, as beer poured down on him from all directions.

Harper’s place in the middle of the celebration was fitting, as was the fact that he fabricated the moment that sent his Phillies to the World Series. He’s been the face of the franchise since the day in 2019 he committed to the city for 13 years after owner John Middleton wrote a check for $330 million to bring him to Philadelphia.

Despite many moments when he might have doubted he made the right choice in leaving Washington for Philadelphia as a free agent, Harper has always embraced his new home. Even when his former team, the Washington nationalswon the World Series in 2019. Even when Philadelphia changed GMs and managers more than once in the franchise’s turbulent first four years — including when Rob Thomson replaced Joe Girardi after a 22-year departure — 29 this season.

“I don’t like looking back,” Harper said after the game, with his MVP trophy sitting beside him. “I like looking forward and moving forward. This game is ‘what have you done for me lately?'”

He never lost faith, always believing what Middleton had promised him: the organization would always put winning above all else.

Shortly after Sunday’s home run, the owner and the star met on the field amid the festive mayhem. Their embrace lasted longer than the flight of the ball – which left the field of play at 108.9mph. Middleton was asked if the hug meant anything very special.

“You bet he did,” he said. “$330 million later, and mutual promises to commit to winning and do whatever it takes to win. He did it.”

The home run that sent Philadelphia to the World Series for the first time since 2009 justified the Phillies’ spending on Harper, as well as the free agent deals this spring that brought Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos – who both had a front-row view of Harper’s outburst; Schwarber from the canoe and Castellanos from the circle on the bridge. “It looked like I had an exorcism on the dugout rail,” Schwarber said in a beer-soaked locker room. “Dude, he’s mean.”

Castellanos marveled at how different the celebration was from when Harper hit a home run against the Castellanos Cubs three years earlier.

“The way he ran around the bases [in 2019] was crazy and energetic,” Castellanos said. “Tonight he was the calmest person in the stadium. I think that’s a lot of growth on his part.

” To look at it [tonight] was a big lesson for me. The way he was able to immerse himself in the moment and stay focused and calm was amazing. Please use those exact words.”

This clubhouse littered with empty Budweiser and champagne bottles was always the focus when Castellanos and Schwarber signed with Philadelphia just days apart after the lockdown, giving Harper a much-needed punch around his own power bat in training.

For Castellanos, this is the winning team he’s been on a mission to find since being drafted by Detroit in 2010. After going 10 major league seasons without winning a postseason series, he enjoyed three champagne celebrations this month.

“We both want to win so badly,” Castellanos said when asked what he’s learned from Harper this season. “It’s one thing we have in common.”

For Schwarber, winning was never a problem. He’s done it everywhere he’s been his whole career. Hailed as the ultimate glue guy in the Phillies clubhouse throughout this postseason, Schwarber has appeared in six league championship series for three different teams. But he was injured for the only victory with a pennant of his career, when the Chicago Cubs won it all in 2016. He never had the full playoff experience until now.

“It was cool for me,” he said Sunday between puffs of a cigar. “Being with them all year, from day one, has been great. The last time [in Chicago] I was down all year.”

It was also a first for the longest-serving Phillies position player, first baseman Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins hit four home runs in five games this series and could have been named MVP if it weren’t for Harper’s heroism – but couldn’t bring himself to care about it as he celebrated his first pennant victory.

“It’s a dream,” Hoskins said, wide-eyed on the pitch afterwards. “This organization is the one that believed in me and gave me the opportunity to impact the city of Philadelphia in any way possible.”

Harper’s arrival signaled to Hoskins that the organization really wanted to win after years of frustration. Until this season, Hoskins had never played in a postseason game, instead having to hear tales of glory about teams from the past. Every time he watched the video scoreboard during this series, there was another Phillies great watching from the stands: Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino – all members of the 2008 World Series winning team of the team.

The dream of joining these former players as champions came true once Harper arrived. Hoskins wasn’t surprised that it was Harper who delivered the big game that ultimately got him there.

“It’s probably something he’s had on his mind ever since he picked up a bat,” Hoskins said. “It’s been a while. He’s changed towns and had to get used to a new organization. For him to get through that moment is like a storybook.”

Later, in a hallway below the bleachers behind home plate, Harper shared a moment with actor Miles Teller, a huge Phillies fan, while still holding his MVP trophy. He sat in the media room and said all the right things: the team is not content with winning the pennant and has four more games to win from here. But Harper looked more at home in the clubhouse, allowing beer to be poured for him while sharing a streak-ending win – instead of packing up to cross the country for the game 6.

“I didn’t want to take that flight back to San Diego,” he said. “I just didn’t want to take a 5 1/2 hour flight. I wanted to hang out at home and enjoy it at home with these fans, this organization and this fan base.”

The Phillies are heading to the World Series because of Harper. This is his team and now his city ​​– and it was his heroism that allowed his local fans to celebrate the victory in their baseball stadium.

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