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October 12, 2023

Bryce Harper cannot stress enough how much he loves playing in Philadelphia

"Flat out, I love this place," Harper said of Philly after Game 3. "There's nothing like coming into the Bank and playing in front of these fans – Blue-collar mentality, tough, fighting every single day...I get chills, man...I get so fired up."

A loud crack of the bat was met with an even louder roar from a euphoric sea of red at Citizens Bank Park. 

Bryce Harper had just launched a game-breaking three-run bomb into the right-field seats – complete with a vengeful staredown of Orlando Arcia during the trot around the bases – that, in an instant, put the Phillies up 4-1 over the Braves in the type of moment that goes on to become legend in October. 

The Phillies' backs were to the wall after a gut punch of loss in Game 2 of the NLDS down in Atlanta on Monday, but coming back home to South Philadelphia on Wednesday for a pivotal Game 3, when the lights shined the brightest, Harper rose to the occasion because of course he did. 

The floodgates had opened, and the Phillies went on to pummel the Braves 10-2 with a postseason franchise record six home runs – including one more from Harper – to take a 2-1 series lead by following the lead of their biggest star. 

Because he was built for these moments, and maybe above all else, built for this city. 

Said Harper postgame in a lengthy – and a bit self-aware – response to the charge he and his Phillies teammates always seem to get when playing in front of the home crowd of more than 45,000-strong at the Bank:

"It's our fans. I mean, there's nothing like it. We come out of that tunnel ready to go, and I just laugh and I smile because it's so much fun – pandering, right? Everybody talks about it. That's what everybody thinks I do or whatever...I love this place. Flat out, I love this place. There's nothing like coming into the Bank and playing in front of these fans – Blue-collar mentality, tough, fighting every single day...I get chills, man...I get so fired up. love this place. 

"I signed here for a reason: To do everything I could to bring back a trophy to this town, to [owner John Middleton], to this organization...I got chills thinking about it because that's what it's all about. I absolutely love this place, I love every single person in this organization, fighting and clawing every single day to get back to that moment. 

"There were so many good times in 07, 08, 09, 2010, 11, and I want it to get back to that moment, into the postseason and playing in front of those fans and Red October...I could go on and on, man. There's nothing like playing here, and Garrett Stubbs said it best: If you don't like it, you can get out, because we don't want you here. We want to be able to come in each night and play our game, and they are with us in this every single step of the way."

It's sometimes easy to forget now, but it wasn't easy at all for the Phillies to get to this point. 

Harper is five years into his 13-year, $330 million mega-deal after choosing Philadelphia in the winter of 2019, but up until last year's postseason breakthrough and the proceeding miracle run to the NL pennant, that stretch was rife with inconsistency, stalled-out runs, and late summer heartbreak. 

But he chose here to bring back the feeling and the type of unforgettable moments like Wednesday's Game 3 brought, and he and the Phillies stuck with it throughout to eventually, finally, find their way there. 

Now the lights are shining even brighter, with Thursday night's Game 4 separating Harper and the Phils from a date with Arizona in what would be their second straight trip to the NLCS. They just have to get past the Braves one more time. 

But Harper's built for these moments, and to make them in this city. 

"He's a big game player, he really is," manager Rob Thomson said of Harper. "These moments, he steps up and I think that he wanted to correct himself of the baseruning error [from Game 2], so that gets him going a little bit.

"But he wants to win and he comes to play every day, and when the lights are the brightest, he shows up."

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