Olney: Why outfielder/broadcaster Bryce Harper is just what MLB needs

  • Senior writer ESPN Magazine/ESPN.com
  • Analyst/reporter ESPN television
  • Author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”

We had grand plans on Sunday Night Baseball last week. Braves vs. Phillies, with Philadelphia beginning to turn up the pressure on first-place Atlanta, and a couple of MLB stars had agreed to wear microphones and ear pieces to complement the competition. Former Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta was on the mound for the Phillies, and the Braves spiced up the matchup by making a morning trade for Tommy Milone.

Then the Braves scored 10 runs in the top of the second, one of the mic’d up stars got hurt and the broadcast was saturated with underlying tech problems. That’s when Bryce Harper saved the night in the manner that Madison Bumgarner hoisted the ’14 Giants onto his shoulders.

“He single-handedly made that game enjoyable to broadcast and watch at home,” Matt Vasgersian, ESPN’s play-by-play man, said of Harper.

Added producer Jeff Dufine: “He gave us something to latch on to and saved the show.”

Harper did everything he could to help ESPN, going way beyond what anyone might’ve expected, and he made our broadcast and his product — baseball — much better.

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