Bryce Harper is sinking deeper and deeper into the couch, like a handful of loose change. The sky outside this luxury waterfront condo somewhere in the vicinity of Clearwater, Florida, is the color of faded denim. A few feet from the windows, pelicans interrupt their lazy glides by tucking their wings and firing their bodies, kamikaze-like, into the bay.
Harper has deemed today the first day he can relax and consider the enormity of what's taken place in his life over the past few months. His wife, Kayla, sits next to him, and there's a dazed vibe in the room, as if a major storm blew through and nobody can summon the energy to take inventory. It sounds strange to suggest they need to recover, since Harper's story over those recent weeks is based on the central notion that he has done so little: not signed a free agent contract, not met with team after team after team, not arrived at spring training until the first day of March. Like those patient birds outside the window, he floated freely for a long time before diving headlong into a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies.
But now that he has done something, and now that his Phillies gear hangs in his locker a few miles away — and will remain hanging there for 13 springs, thanks to his for-better-or-worse, no-trade, no-opt-out contract — this feels like a day for big thoughts, for trying to wrestle with the weighty questions and deeper meanings of a 26-year-old who just made the decision of a lifetime.
The moment was foretold, of course. When he was 9, he told his father, Ron, that he was going to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. He left high school after his sophomore year and played a year at a junior college to fulfill this prophecy. Ever since he was called up to the Nationals at 19, today was seen as a foregone conclusion: Bryce Harper, a free agent at 26, would demand and receive the most lucrative contract in American sports history.