August 12, 2022
Add Bryce Harper to the list.
The reigning NL MVP was revealed as the next member of Team USA's roster for the 2023 World Baseball Classic on Friday and is the second Phillie to join alongside catcher J.T. Realmuto, who was confirmed for the tournament earlier in the week.
So far, the projected U.S. lineup consists of Harper in right field, Realmuto at catcher, the Angels' Mike Trout in center, St. Louis' Paul Goldschmidt at first base and Nolan Arenado at third, and Boston's Trevor Story at either second or shortstop.
Team USA won it all back in 2017, and after what will be a longer than usual six-year break (due to COVID and the MLB lockout), look to be defending the title with a pretty stacked lineup come next March.
Harper won his second NL MVP award in 2021 and was slashing .318/.385/.599 this season before a broken thumb took him out of the lineup on June 25. He had also spent the bulk of the season as a designated hitter by that point as a small UCL tear in his right elbow left him unable to throw and play out in right.
Granted, he's still aiming to return this season and help the Phillies snap a decade-long playoff drought, and should be more than healed by the time the tournament rolls around in the spring.
Harper broke into the majors in 2012 as an up-and-coming phenom with the Nationals and has since remained as one of baseball's biggest stars. But this will be his first time playing in the WBC, which marks a shift both for the event and Harper's approach toward it.
A couple of years ago, as a guest on Barstool's Starting 9 podcast, Harper criticized MLB's struggles in marketing the game and was adamant that player participation in the Summer Olympics would be a huge boost. The World Baseball Classic, though an international event, wasn't big enough of a platform.
“I’m taking the WBC out,” Harper said at the time (via Phillies Nation). “I’m not a big WBC guy because that’s not the Olympics. I’m not saying it’s bad, seeing USA win it last time was awesome and seeing all those players, how much fun they had, [was cool]. But can you imagine being in a foreign country – and I was able to do this at a young age – standing on the line and listening to your anthem blare? Dude, there is nothing better. Like it fires me up just sitting here. There is nothing better, bro."
Looks like he's a WBC guy now.
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