Archie Bradley recalls facing Bryce Harper as teenagers on the travel ball circuit


Back in 2006, right around the time the Phillies were making the leap from pretty good to really good, two future Phils were squaring off as teenagers in the travel ball circuit.

Archie Bradley and Bryce Harper go way back. Their matchups more than a decade ago in Oklahoma and Florida came up Thursday on Bradley’s podcast debut on Jomboy Media’s Chris Rose Rotation. Bradley will be one of Rose’s six rotating guest hosts along with Tyler Glasnow, Lucas Giolito, Trevor May, Miguel Rojas and Steven Brault.

“Bryce and I go back to Oklahoma Little League days,” Bradley said. “He came and played for a team called the Oklahoma Elite. From the beginning, Bryce has been the superstar he is now. He was stealing second and third when we played against him, the home runs he would hit. ... At 14, he was throwing upper-80s, I think.

“We played down at the Braves’ spring training complex in Florida. Oklahoma-Texas shootout, we always would play him there. I would say from 12 years old to 16 years old, we played every summer.”

The Phillies’ playoff drought came up and Bradley was asked if Harper would need to win a ring here to justify his 13-year, $330 million contract. The Phillies have gone four games under .500 in the first two years of that deal but Harper has remained the same player he was in D.C., even hitting for a bit more power with the Phils.

“If he were a football player, I think the answer is yes,” Bradley said. “But there are so many variables in baseball that go into winning that are outside of Bryce’s control. I mean, look at Mike Trout. MVP numbers every year and the Angels haven’t sniffed (the playoffs). Does Mike Trout need to win a World Series to validate his deal? 

“I think Bryce gets some of that because Bryce wasn’t as liked coming up. He’s got an edge. I love Bryce’s edge. I love some of the buttons he’s pushed.”

Always say hi

Bradley credited former infielder and Phillie-killer Martin Prado for showing, by example, the right way to treat teammates and off-field employees. People who are important to the day-to-day operations. Security guards, ushers, stadium workers earning about 0.008% of a big-leaguer’s salary.

“Shoutout to Martin Prado. I say hi to everyone every day and I try to introduce myself if I don’t know them,” Bradley said. “One of the most respectful and powerful things is knowing someone’s name and speaking directly to someone instead of, ‘Hey dude, hey man.’

“Martin Prado did that and I’ll never forget, every day he’d say hi to every single person. So yeah, first day in, I got my backpack on, my nice outfit, I was like, “Hey Andrew (McCutchen), how ya doin’? And he’s like, ‘Arch, wuddup dude. Man, I hated facing you.’ 

“It’s cool because I’ve built a reputation in this game. Guys know who I am now. Not in a cocky way but it’s pretty cool.”

Meeting the new guys

What has the adjustment process been like for Bradley with his new team? For one, it was a transition not being able to sleep in his own bed during spring training. Playing his first six seasons with the Diamondbacks, Bradley didn’t have to leave Arizona in February or March. He’s renting an Airbnb in Clearwater and can afford the expense with that $6 million contract.

Personality-wise, he compared it to anyone starting a new job.

“I think the hardest part is coming in and fully letting myself show,” he said. “You know that there’s some vets in there, different guys with different personalities and you have to go in with an open mind, feel the place out and then be who I am.

“I’m a very loud guy, I’m out there, I’m positive. Most people think I’m on Red Bull every day. I’m just naturally positive and I bring a lot. I think a lot of people are kind of shocked by that sometimes from the reliever world.”

Bradley also talked about getting engaged during the pandemic, his two playoff RBIs and a shoutout he received on draft day from Jimmy Rollins, who would become the first batter he faced as a major-leaguer.

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