“I just kind of took myself back to Vegas High School, where I threw to him the most,” Ron said. “It’s just a game. Let’s just have fun. He’s a great kid. I love watching him swing. I got to enjoy the moment.”
Bryce approached the derby with his typical bravado. He batted without a hat, revealing a spiky haircut that made it seem as if sea urchins had colonized the top of his head. Under Armour specially made a pair of spikes for him, just for the derby, a metallic kaleidoscope on his feet, replete with a subtle outline of the New York skyline. “Pretty sweet,” he said.
By the end, the competition became a matter of attrition. By one count, Ron threw 120 pitches. One of them slipped and hit Bryce in the back foot; he could not remember ever being hit by his dad in BP. In the final round, Bryce switched to a lighter bat.
“Probably rather lay some rebar,” Ron said, laughing.
Family, more than anything, has sustained Bryce during his rise. He has “Pops” tattooed on his right wrist. His brother, Bryan, a lefty reliever at the Nationals’ Class A affiliate in Hagerstown, played a 10:35 a.m. game and made it to New York in time to watch from the field. Their mother, Sheri, sat in the crowd.
“I wasn’t thinking there’s a million people in the stands,” Bryce said. “I was thinking, ‘My family is here.’ ”
Ron cherished watching Bryce swing at his pitches most. He also soaked in the feeling of playing with the big leaguers his son calls colleagues and competitors.
“I shagged on a big league field,” Ron said. “With [Andrew] McCutchen and David Wright and [Joey] Votto. I laughed with all these guys. Cliff Lee is sitting right there. It’s really amazing.”
After the final round ended, Bryce walked toward the screen to meet his dad. They hugged. “Thank you for the opportunity to do this with you, kid,” Ron told his son. “I love you.”
Bryce smacked him on the shoulder. It was, again, him and his dad.