Says the New York Times:
Middleton has the kind of perks he could only dream about in 1980, when he watched the Phillies win the World Series from the distant 600 level above right field at Veterans Stadium.
To complete the Bryce Harper deal, Middleton — the team’s control person since 2016 — flew to Las Vegas on his private jet with his wife, Leigh, and met for several hours with Harper, 26, and his wife, Kayla.
It was a deeply personal conversation. The Middletons talked about their 40-year marriage and the challenges of balancing work and family. The Harpers, who met in high school, asked about hospitals and schools they might need when they have children. Harper said he was struck by the way Middleton looked him in the eye, showing an understanding that Harper’s goals for this deal made it a life decision, not just a baseball one.
“Understand that my family means the world to me — my wife, my mom and dad, everybody,” said Harper, who had no interest in an opt-out clause. “I want to be able to sit there and have my kids grow up somewhere, not have to move around and go here and go there when that time comes. For me, this is an opportunity to play somewhere for 13 years and try to understand a city, and be into a city and be part of it. That’s the greatest thing that could ever happen.”
Middleton is the team’s most powerful link to its own history. The team president Andy MacPhail, General Manager Matt Klentak, Manager Gabe Kapler and all of the coaches were hired from elsewhere, with no ties to a proud, provincial city. Institutional memory is important in Philly, and Middleton has it.
“I think Philadelphia fans probably feel that John Middleton’s one of their own,” said Mike Schmidt, the greatest player in Phillies history. “He’s one of our people, one of our guys.”