Alex Brandon/Associated Press
Bryce Harper is ready to put on a new jersey again. The United States jersey, more specifically.
The star outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies went on the Starting 9 podcast this week and spoke about Major League Baseball’s refusal to allow big leaguers to play in international events like the Olympics.
While baseball isn’t an official Olympic sport for 2020, the 27-year-old believes the lack of foresight on the part of MLB is hurting the game.
“It is such a travesty to me,” Harper said. “The 2020 Olympics, in Japan. And you’re not sending big league guys? Are you kidding me? You want to grow the game as much as possible and you’re not going to let us play in the Olympics because you don’t want to [lose] out on money for a two-week period? OK, that’s dumb.”
With the coronavirus pandemic delaying the Tokyo games until 2021, Harper believes there’s an opportunity to “shock the world” and put the sport back in with the best players committed to their home countries.
To hear the outfielder explain it, bringing the sport back to the Olympics in a country that rivals america’s passion for baseball is a no-brainer.
“You have [Shohei] Ohtani going back playing for Japan, facing Mike Trout,” Harper said. “Just imagine that. … Can you imagine being in a foreign country, standing on the line, listening to your anthem blare? Dude, there is nothing better. It fires me up sitting here. There’s nothing better.”
Currently, MLB players are permitted to take part in the World Baseball Classic, but the spring tournament hardly carries the same gravitas as the Olympic stage.
Baseball was last officially included in the games in 2008. At the time, the teams were comprised of minor league and amateur players. The United States finished third behind Cuba and South Korea.
In retrospect, that American team should’ve placed higher on the podium with the likes of Brett Anderson, Jake Arrieta, Trevor Cahill, R.A. Dickey, Stephen Strasburg, Jayson Nix and Dexter Fowler on the roster.
Harper wants to run it back with all pros. There’s certainly no question it would make for a highly entertaining product if it were allowed.