First, Bryce Harper stood up to prove to himself, his teammates and fans that he was OK. Then, he proved that he’s also a stand-up guy.
The Phillies right fielder showed graciousness and empathy after being hit by an errant pitch from Cardinals reliever Génesis Cabrera in the sixth inning of a game in April. His 97-mph fastball hit Bryce in the face, cut him near the eye and bruised his wrist.
Hitting the ground, Bryce checked to see if he was bleeding badly. Since he wasn’t, he wanted to stand without assistance. “I was a little scared, worried,” he said. “You start thinking about your family.”
But he also thought about Génesis. “In that moment, I could see the distraught expression on his face and how upset and sad he was about hitting someone like that,” Bryce said. “The next day I really wanted to make sure he was OK.”
The Cardinals reliever was shaken. After hitting the next batter, he left the game then apologized repeatedly following the Cards’ 5-3 loss. “I’m very sorry for the entire situation,” he said through an interpreter. “My prayers go out to Bryce Harper. I hope he can get back to baseball soon. None of it was intentional. Again, I’m sorry.”
After being diagnosed with bruises, Bryce took to Instagram that night to assure his fans that he was OK. He also received a text from then-Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, who relayed that the team was praying for him. So, Bryce had his opening, and he took it in a return text.
“He said he was going to be fine and was grateful for (me) reaching out,” the Cards manager said. “At that point, he did something that was very empathetic. He said he wanted to make sure Cabrera was OK, to tell him to keep his head up, stay aggressive, tell him it’s part of the game. Tell him there’s no hard feelings and he has a nice, bright future ahead of him … I thought that was a tremendous gesture.”
Bryce missed three games because of the injury and went on to put up season stats worthy of Stan. He finished with a .309 average and led the majors in doubles (42), slugging percentage (.615) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.044).
Stan might be prouder, though, of the graciousness, empathy and sportsmanship that Bryce displayed in the heat of the moment in April. “To be seen in the same light as him, I’m definitely humbled,” Bryce said. “I’m definitely appreciative to be part of that. I hope I can pay it forward to anyone else in those situations. I had amazing parents who tried to teach me the right ways and I’m going to try to do that with my kids as well: Be as kind as possible, no matter the situation.”
Shildt noted that Bryce already has set an example. “I think people in general have a hard time looking outside what they’re dealing with to look through another person’s lens. Bryce did that. He had empathy for the guy who hit him. … If your children are fans, you can support that guy. That’s a stand-up guy.”