On Thursday, Major League Baseball presented “Opening Day at Home” -- a full slate of 30 games broadcast nationally across various platforms including networks, digital streaming and social media, creating a full-day event on what would have been Opening Day. The experience was intended to invite fans to feel a sense of community and unity on a day many were looking forward to while underscoring the importance of staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Using the hashtag #OpeningDayAtHome, fans could connect with each other while watching their team’s selected game at a set time. The Phillies got going with Bryce Harper’s walk-off grand slam against the Cubs last Aug. 15 at Citizens Bank Park.
“Opening Day at Home” also was an opportunity for MLB to raise awareness for several worthy charities that are helping provide relief to the most vulnerable communities impacted by the pandemic. Last week, MLB and the MLBPA made a $1 million joint donation to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels, in addition to a $30 million commitment made by MLB clubs to emergency relief for ballpark employees. If so willing and able, fans can contribute toward these charities, MLB official charity Boys & Girls Clubs of America and additional causes at MLB.com/give.
Harper placed his hand on his heart before he stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning that August night. He checked for his heartbeat.
He felt nothing.
"Good," he thought to himself. Calm, cool, confident, Harper crushed a 2-2 sinker from Cubs left-hander Derek Holland deep into the second deck in right field for a walk-off grand slam in a 7-5 victory. The towering shot helped the Phillies sweep the series and move within one game of the second National League Wild Card spot.
The Phils stumbled down the stretch, but at the time, Harper’s homer was the highlight of the season and a sign of what might come.
Harper smashed Holland’s 95-mph fastball at an exit velocity of 113 mph, according to Statcast. Once the ball landed in the stands -- it seemed like it never wanted to land -- Harper high-stepped to first base. He sprinted the rest of the way.
“I love those moments. I love those opportunities,” Harper said. “I think it helped a lot from a young age, going through those emotions and having those opportunities at 8, 9, 10 years old in big-time games and going to different states and cities and playing for different teams with guys that I didn’t know with expectations and things like that. I just love it. These fans do expect that. And I expect to do that for them on a nightly basis. If I don’t, they are going to be there to let me know. I like that, too.”
Phillies left-hander Drew Smyly was in the clubhouse when Harper connected.
“We could hear the stadium rock first because there’s a little delay on the TV, so you knew something good happened,” he said. “Then he just launched it up to the moon.”
This week, MLB unlocked its expansive vault and is offering fans special access to the most unforgettable moments. MLB has made the entire 2018 and '19 game archives free to all fans through MLB.TV. Fans can also access more than 200 full classic MLB games on YouTube, including timeless World Series games, memorable postseason matchups, no-hitters and perfect games.