It was a big weekend for Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper, who managed to insult participation trophies and ignite a massive brawl all while continuing to lead the National League with 15 home runs. The topic of participation trophies is pretty much guaranteed to get people fired up, and the 24-year-old lit a spark as he answered questions from a squad of youth baseball players on Saturday. When asked about the practice of giving kids awards just for playing on a team, Harper explained that kids should not accept these meaningless trinkets and always aim to be number one.
Two days after taking down participation trophies, Harper headed to San Francisco where he was a part of the biggest brawl in recent sports memory. At the top of the eighth inning, Harper was hit by a 98 mph fastball thrown by Giants reliever Hunter Strickland, and he was not too happy about it. Harper tossed his helmet, charged the mound, and started what quickly turned into a bench-clearer for both teams. Harper and Strickland have a history of clashing that charts back to when they faced off in the 2014 NL Division series, so both were quickly ejected from the game after starting trouble on Monday.
Harper is one of the modern faces of baseball, falling only behind Mike Trout in terms of popularity and importance. And he’s appointed himself as an ambassador for America’s pastime, with the ultimate goal of “making baseball fun again.” While baseball is commonly seen by millennials as the most boring of the major sports, Harper is determined to prove that is not the case. Are his recent trophy-rants, emojis on bats, and mound charges part of that goal? It’s possible, but then again he’s just a guy who wants to bring his own flavor to the sport. In any case, if he keeps it up, he may end up with nothing more than a damaged reputation and a few bruises.