And it had nothing to do with his play on the field.
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper took an hour before last night’s game against the Padres to meet with 13-year-old Gavin Rupp, who was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer last month. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has the story.
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 spoke with Rupp about a variety of topics, ranging from his pregame routine to Ohio State football. The 20-year-old traded wristbands with Rupp and even asked him to sign a baseball. While it was just an hour of Harper’s time, it meant the world to Rupp’s family.
“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.”
Harper wrote this message on his Twitter account after last night’s game.
Good on you, Bryce.
Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.
This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.
Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.
Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.