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Phillies’ Bryce Harper does soccer slide after homer in win over Mets in London. ‘I love the moment’

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LONDON (AP) — Bryce Harper loves “the moment,” so after a big home run he went for a dramatic statement that connected with both baseball fans and soccer supporters.

The Phillies slugger celebrated with a soccer-style knee slide by the Philadelphia dugout at London Stadium, home of the Premier League club West Ham.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane would be proud.

The solo shot sparked a sixth-run fourth inning and a 7-2 win Saturday in the opener of a two-game series.

“I didn’t tell any of my teammates because I wanted them all to be pretty surprised,” Harper said.

In another nod to British culture, he changed his walkup song to “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.

Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suárez, a soccer fan, called the celebration “iconic.” Manager Rob Thomson had no reaction in the dugout.

“Just don’t get hurt,” Thomson recalled thinking.

That crossed Harper’s mind, too.

“I kind of was just wondering if I was going to actually do it when I got across home plate,” he said. “My only fear was if I got caught on the turf with my knees, but it didn’t happen.”

Harper said he kept a lid on his plans, discussing it only on Saturday morning in the trainer’s room.

“I love the moment, love the opportunity and was able to do it,” said the 31-year-old, who is using special bats in London that feature the fuzzy green Phillie Phanatic.

Once in the dugout, Harper, who was mic’d up for the television broadcast of the game, yelled: “I love soccer! I love soccer!” while high-fiving teammates after the equalizer. His 15th home run of the season tied the score 1-1 during what became big inning against Sean Manaea.

The celebration came just after the 15th anniversary of the Sports Illustrated cover story on Harper that called him baseball’s “Chosen One.”

“He’s a showman,” Thomson said. “He’s done it so often. You just sort of think ‘This is his time.’ The first three innings, it was just kind of blah. To get that home run and get the energy back in the dugout was huge.”

It wasn’t the only soccer reference on the day. Whit Merrifield’s three-run homer in the fourth inning extended the lead to 5-2, his third home run of the season.

“It felt good to drive some runs in. I felt like I left the whole Premier League on base this past couple months,” Merrifield said.

On Friday, Harper said he appreciated going unnoticed while walking around London: “I’ve actually enjoyed people not really realizing who I am.”

Might be harder to stay anonymous now.

“He is a superstar. People come to watch him play,” Thomson said. “In this environment, World Series, playoffs, All Star Game, whatever, where the spotlight is really bright, he tends to perform. Not many guys can say that.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

By KEN MAGUIRE
AP Sports Writer

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