Nationals wunderkind Bryce Harper catches an awful lot of grief given that he is a great player who plays as hard as anyone, but on Friday he did something even his biggest detractors must admire. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has the story:
Baseball has helped sustain Gavin Rupp since his cancer first formed, back in February 2011. Gavin received radiation treatment and visited Children's National Medical Center and twice underwent surgery to remove a glioblastoma tumor from his brain. He went through hell, and he still kept his starting position on his travel team. Gavin played shortstop.
Last month Gavin's father, Chris Rupp, had to make sense of a collection of unfathomable phrases. The doctors were telling them there was another tumor. It was at the center of Gavin's brain. The surgery risk was too high. There were no options. “The doctors and our team at Children's National kind of told us it was time to start moving to hospice,” Chris Rupp said. Chris needed to tell his 13-year-old all of this.
The Rupps of Ashburn have had too many bad days. Friday was a good day. The Nationals invited Gavin to throw out the first pitch before the team played the San Diego Padres. Late in the afternoon, at around 5:15, they were hanging out together in the Nationals dugout, Gavin's parents and his siblings, Abby and Ian. Gavin's favorite player came walking out.
“You guys want to go out on the field?” Bryce Harper asked.
The group stood off to the side as the Padres started taking batting practice. An hour later, up until about 45 minutes to first pitch, Harper was still there talking to Gavin and his family. Kyle Mann, the Nationals coordinator of community relations, had never seen a player spend so much time with a kid before a game.
Harper gave Gavin a signed hat and the two spoke about pretty much everything -- pregame meals, superstitions, Ohio State football, you name it. They traded wristbands and Harper asked Gavin for a signed ball.
“I can't say enough. A guy who is 20 years old, to take that much time,” Chris Rupp said. His voice quivered and his eyes watered. “When I was 20 years old, I didn't have that maturity, to do what he just did.”
Afterwards, Harper tweeted this:
Baseball, man, It's a beautiful thing. Good job by Harper. He gets it.
(h/t Hardball Talk)