Bryce Harper, as he laid on the ground Wednesday night in St. Louis after a 97 mph fastball hit him in the face, touched his cheek and nose to see if he was bleeding or just bruised. There was a small cut, but the Phillies slugger said it “didn’t feel like it was running water.”
And then Harper heard the home-plate umpire, who was just feet away as the pitch hit him, instruct him to stay on the ground.
“And I kind of thought to myself, ‘No. I’m getting up,’” Harper said Friday. “Like, I’m not going to be out here. I’m getting up, no matter what. If I fall down, I fall down. But I’m getting up.”
Harper was able to walk off the field at Busch Stadium and two days later still couldn’t believe how it all happened.
He was expecting Cardinals left-hander Génesis Cabrera to throw a curveball, but the reliever instead came inside with a first-pitch fastball. Harper tried to get out of the way but couldn’t. After leaving the field, he was rushed to a nearby hospital along with president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
Harper didn’t have any fractures and did not suffer a concussion. The tests all came back clean. The only damage to his face was the small cut he felt when he was on the ground, which Harper said was caused by the seams of the baseball.
“I’ll tell you what, my mom is great. She’s a special person, and I absolutely love her,” Harper said. “But she said, ‘You must have had angels with you tonight. They must have known what was going to happen.’ And I agree. I’m just very blessed and fortunate to be where I am right now. I can’t really explain it to you, right? I don’t think anybody can. It just happened and it hit me and I’m just very lucky to be sitting here.”
Harper missed Friday night’s game with a sore wrist as the baseball ricocheted off his face and smacked his left wrist. Harper played catch Friday afternoon and took batting practice, but didn’t feel great. He’ll try again Saturday and see how he feels.
“And if I can go tomorrow, then I will. If not, then we’ll take another day,” Harper said. “I just really want to be smart about it. I feel good at the plate right now. So I don’t want to be dumb and go out there and just say I want to play just because I want to look tough like I have in the past. You know what I’m saying? I mean, there’s so many times where I’ve done it. I just want to be smart right now.”
After walking off the field, Harper became emotional once he reached the clubhouse. The adrenaline had worn off and everything set in: He was hit in the face by a 97 mph pitch. An inch here, Harper said, or an inch there and the situation could have been much different.
“I was thinking about my kids. Thinking about my wife,” Harper said. “I think baseball kind of goes to the side, right? It kind of goes to the side in that situation, that moment. So you start thinking about bigger things. You start thinking about your family. You start thinking about your kids, and what if?”
Harper called his wife Kayla to tell her he was OK as she knew she was watching at home. He FaceTimed his parents, who weren’t watching but received an alert on their phones that their son left the game after being hit by a pitch. They didn’t know it hit his face until Harper popped onto their screen.
“My wife, she doesn’t really freak out until she needs to,” Harper said. “Her mom works in the hospital. So if you have a broken finger, it’s not a big deal, right? She doesn’t freak out until she needs to. She’s that rock in my life. And she just made sure I was OK. She was good. I mean, once everything was good, she was OK.”
Harper had trouble sleeping as his face was sore. He couldn’t stop replaying the pitch, wondering how he escaped without serious injuries. And he woke up Thursday morning to a text message from Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. He wanted to tell Harper that the Cardinals wished him well and they were thinking about him.
A night earlier, Harper showed his might by refusing to stay on the ground. He was hit in the face by a 97 mph pitch, but he was determined to walk away on his own. Thursday morning, Harper showed a different side as he responded to Shildt and asked about the pitcher who hit him in the face.
“So, I sat there and I texted him back and said, ‘You know, I’m thinking about Génesis. I prayed for him last night. And I just want to make sure he’s OK. If he wants to talk, I’d love to speak with him. Or you can just pass this message along and just tell him that it’s OK. It happens. I have no ill will towards him at all,’” Harper said. “I just wanted to make sure he’s OK because he’s going to be a successful pitcher in this league for a long time. He’s got really good stuff. And I just wanted to make sure he was good.”
“I was super fortunate to be where I was.”