PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper will learn on Nov. 18 if he has won his second National League Most Valuable Player Award.
In the meantime, he is taking home other honors.
Harper was notified last week that he won the Players Choice Award for NL Outstanding Player, which is noteworthy because players vote for the winners. But Harper also received a Musial Award, which honors the year’s “greatest moments of sportsmanship and the biggest names in sports who embody class and character.”
If you want to know why the St. Louis Sports Commission and the nonprofit National Sportsmanship Foundation recognized Harper, think back to the sixth inning at Busch Stadium on April 28.
Harper got hit in the face with a 97 mph fastball from Cardinals pitcher Génesis Cabrera. It was an incredibly scary moment as the ball struck Harper near his left eye and nose, which led to him being transported to a local hospital. Miraculously, Harper suffered no broken bones or even a concussion, although the ball deflected into his left wrist, causing an injury that later placed him on the injured list. Still, he recovered to have an MVP-caliber season.
“Definitely had an angel on my side out there that night,” Harper said a couple days later.
Harper is one of baseball’s best players, so a pitch like that could foster some ill will, including retaliation. But after Cabrera apologized that night for the errant pitch, and Cardinals manager Mike Shildt texted Harper a message of support, Harper told Shildt that he knew the pitch was unintentional.
Harper then offered to speak to Cabrera on the phone.
“I just wanted to make sure he was OK,” Harper said at the time. “He’s a young kid. He’s a young pitcher and that could definitely mess with somebody. We’ve seen it. You’ve seen it in the past with guys that hit somebody or they throw a pitch to the backstop, and then it’s an onion that just opens, right?”
Shildt praised Harper for the kind words and offer.
“Whoever’s a fan of Bryce Harper -- or whoever has children that are fans of Bryce Harper -- support that guy, because what he sent over in a message today was completely a class act,” Shildt said. “He wanted to make sure that Génesis knew that he was aware it was unintentional, and that if he needed to talk to make sure he was OK with, mentally, what took place, that he was free to have the conversation with him. He had empathy for the guy that hit him. So a lot of respect for Bryce Harper, and a lot of respect for the kind of player he is, but even more respect now for the way he handled a very tough situation. For anybody that is a fan of Bryce Harper, or your children are fans, you can support that guy. That's a stand-up guy.”
The St. Louis Sports Commission said it chose Harper as one of its honorees because Musial might be proud of Harper’s “graciousness, empathy and sportsmanship.”
“To be seen in the same light as him, I’m definitely humbled,” Harper said in a statement. “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.”