Ever since he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16, Washington Nationals superstar Bryce Harper has had a big target on his back. Despite the fact that he’s performed at every level since being drafted, fans still try to find opportunities to devalue his numbers.
Those detractors have a much weaker argument now. After a tremendous 2015 season, Harper was named the National League MVP on Thursday. Harper received 30 first-place votes for the award, making him the youngest unanimous winner ever.
While that’s certainly impressive, it’s not going to quiet the doubters. The level of hate Harper has received in the majors has become a huge part of his narrative and career thus far. He’s booed in pretty much every opposing ballpark and has even been booed at the All-Star game. Video of his first major-league hit has to be shown at a side angle because two fans decided to moon the camera while he was at-bat.
The haters don’t seem to bother Harper, though. In his post-MVP interview with MLB Network, Harper was asked about how he responds in those situations. His response: “I enjoy getting booed.” (skip to the 4:00 minute mark to hear the hater question and Harper’s response)
Here was Harper’s longer quote regarding getting booed by opposing fans:
“I love it. I really do. I enjoy getting booed when I go to places. It makes me thrive. It makes me do well. And that’s something I enjoy. Jason [Werth] always messes with me and says, ‘if you don’t like it, then stop doing all your stupid commercials.'”
After laughing and admitting Werth has a point, Harper pivoted and gave a more earnest answer, saying he enjoys being able to help put baseball on the map and further the game for young players around the world.
Harper’s last point is probably the right attitude to have. Even before winning his first MVP award Harper was a national figure, and a big part of promoting the game. Now that he’s an MVP award winner, his status, and his obligations as a ambassador for the game are much higher.
As Harper gets further thrust into the spotlight, there are sure to be those who continue pick apart his every move. The hate already pushed him to win one MVP award, and you get the sense this won’t be the last time he’s in the conversation for the honor.
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