After a 41-minute rain delay, Nationals fans rained down boos on Harper in his first at-bat since leaving the franchise and signing a huge 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in March.
With two runners on and no outs in the top of the first inning, Harper stepped into the batter's box against Nationals ace Max Scherzer. The crowd booed loudly during a prolonged pause before the two players squared off. Harper, facing a 2-2 count, swung and missed at a changeup that sparked a large roar from the fans in attendance.
Harper predicted a hostile environment at Nationals Park when asked what kind of reaction he expected from fans Tuesday night.
"Everywhere I go, if I'm a visiting player, I usually get booed," Harper told reporters. "So that's just part of it. But I think I might get a little bit tonight. I might get some cheers as well. All the messages that I got on Instagram were, we're gonna cheer you tonight and boo you later. It's just part of sports. I get it."
Before the game, Harper posted a lengthy tribute to Nationals fans on Instagram.
"When I run on the field tonight I am sure to hear some boos, but I will always remember the cheers and the screams that are still with me right now, as I start my new chapter," Harper wrote. "So for that, DC, THANK YOU."
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If you would have told me 5 years ago I would be walking into Nationals Park as an opposing player, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. Five years later, I’m doing just that. I remember the first day I walked into Nats Park. My first base hit. My first home run. And, of course, my first standing ovation. Nationals fans delivered that first ovation. The things that I will miss most are the relationships I gained on a personal level with so many of the Nationals staff and workers around the ballpark. Every day I walked in, I got a smile or shared a laugh with you. I especially want to thank The Lerner Family and Mike Rizzo for the unwavering support they showed me during my tenure in DC. The city of DC was home. Filomena’s, The Silver Diner, The Italian store, and countless other places helped make it feel like home. You, Nationals fans, made me one of your own for the entire time I was a part of the Nationals organization. I’m so blessed to have been able to play for a fan base that cared so much about our team each and every night. You will always hold a special place in my heart no matter what. I look forward to continuing Harpers Heroes with LLS in the DMV as well as making sure the legacy fields bearing my name are the best youth fields in town! When I run on the field tonight I am sure to hear some boos, but I will always remember the cheers and the screams that are still with me right now, as I start my new chapter. So for that, DC, THANK YOU.
Harper also struck out in his second at-bat of the night before hitting a double in his third chance at the plate against Scherzer. He has a .333 batting average with two home runs and two RBIs to begin the 2019 season.
The Phillies led Washington 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning.