Bryce Harper on coronavirus: 'I just live my life'

Bryce Harper on coronavirus: 'I just live my life'

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Bryce Harper stopped short of calling Major League Baseball's decision to close clubhouses to non-essential personnel an overreaction, but he made it clear that he's not afraid of coronavirus.

"I live, man," the Phillies slugger said late Tuesday morning. "I don't worry about a disease or a virus. I live my life. I'm doing everything the same. I'm shaking people's hands, I'm high-fiving. I'm healthy. I'm 27. The people that are affected, it's a lot of older and maybe some young, as well. But I just live my life."

Per MLB edict, Harper spoke with reporters outside the Phillies' clubhouse and he kept a distance of about eight feet. 

He made it clear that he was just following the rules and at one point seemed to acknowledge the absurdity of it all by saying he wouldn't hesitate to give one of the scribes a hug.

"You guys have a job to do," said Harper, who exited Tuesday's game after a first-inning HBP. "We have to understand you have to do a job. We need to talk to you, we need to. As of right now, I guess it's going to be out here, but hopefully in the near future you guys are back in there with us and we're just going on with our daily routine of talking to you guys.

"I think we're all in uncharted territory. We've never seen this. We've never done this. I think everybody is trying to do what is right, I guess you could say."

The clubhouse ban affects more than reporters. A couple of club officials who work at the minor-league complex were denied access to the big-league clubhouse Tuesday morning. MLB says the clubhouse ban will be temporary, but there's no timetable for it to be lifted.

"This is an evolving situation," Phillies club president Andy MacPhail said. "We'll deal with it the best we can and take our cues from the experts."

The clubhouse ban is clearly designed to protect players, but there are limits to what can be done. As one Phillies official said, "What about the other 18 hours in the day?" Harper said he has continued to go out in public. He mentioned going grocery shopping the other day and said he would not hesitate to go see a Golden Knights hockey game if he were at home in Las Vegas.

Teammate Rhys Hoskins had a similar outlook.

"I have not yet changed the way that I live," he said.

While MLB's edict to restrict access to the clubhouse attempts to protect the players, fans have not received the same consideration. They are still allowed to buy tickets, attend games, use ballpark restrooms and purchase concessions. Double standard?

"I can't really speak on that," Harper said. "That's Major League Baseball's decision. If they think the fans should be here, if they think they don't, then that's on Major League Baseball. As a player, I can't make that decision. If fans still want to come and watch us play, then we respect that. We want that. If they don't want to because they want to protect their families, I understand that, too. I have a family at home as well. There's no need for me to get sick or my family to get sick or my son, who was just born. I really don't know how to answer that. I'm sorry."

Harper loves to connect with the fans. But if the virus continues to spread, well, it's not out of the question that he could be bowing to empty seats in right field when the Phillies play their home opener April 2.

"That would definitely be different," he said. "It would be crazy. I love seeing them in the stands. I love when they're there. I love playing in front of them. But I want to protect them, as well. I want to protect us as a team, I want to protect us as individuals. Right now, what everyone's talking about how big it is, you have to start thinking a little bit bigger than just the team. The fans, everybody, you've got to think about everybody and not just yourself."

As for canceling games or altering the season, Hoskins, the team's union rep, has heard nothing about that.

"I haven't gotten to that point yet with all of this," he said. "It would be kind of hard for us to have that thought in our mind, especially at this point in spring training when we're getting so close. I don't want to speak for everyone in the clubhouse, but I would assume most guys have in their minds that it's going to be business as usual."

For Harper, it certainly is.

"I'm just doing my thing every single day, the same way," he said. "I go out to eat. I get in my car and drive to the field. I pick up baseballs in the cage. I feel safe in my clubhouse with the guys who are in there. If I cough up a lung then, I don't know, you know what I'm saying? I feel bad for the people that have been affected by it. No one wants to see anybody get sick. That's a bummer. But I'm healthy right now and I want to stay in a good mental state and just do my thing on the field. If it gets to the point where it gets really bad, then we'll figure it out from there."

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Revelations and takeaways from the Roy Halladay E60 documentary

Revelations and takeaways from the Roy Halladay E60 documentary

There was so much of note in Friday's powerful hourlong E60 documentary of the life and death of Roy Halladay. Heartbreaking recollections from his widow, Brandy, troubling details of his addiction to prescription opioids, and the valuable lesson that hopefully can come from such a painful tragedy.

"I just wanted him to slow down," Brandy said.

"Roy had none," she said of the balance in his life at points.

"He didn't feel he had the luxury of making mistakes, he was truly tormented."

How Halladay's opioid addiction began

Halladay popped his back during the 2011 season and pitched through it. He pitched through pain the night the Phillies' playoff hopes ended in a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS after a franchise-record 102 regular-season wins.

Brandy told a story of Roy experiencing such back pain that he once fell down sneezing around that time.

Halladay began taking prescription opioids in the spring of 2012, obtaining them by paying cash to a doctor in Florida who was recommended to him by a Phillies teammate.

"He was continuing to hurt himself, and the more he hurt himself, the more dependent he would be on medication," Brandy said. "He was breaking his back. He actually shrunk three inches from compression in his spine. That's insane."

Former teammate and pupil Kyle Kendrick, who looked up to Halladay as a role model and mentor, noticed that something wasn't right. 

"At his locker, I was right next to him. You'd try to talk to him and you'd feel like he wasn't there," Kendrick said. "As a friend, I felt like I should say something. I felt like he might need help. A teammate and I said something to someone who worked for the team."

The teammate confronted Halladay about his drug use during the 2013 season but nothing changed.

Fear of public scrutiny

Halladay's body became dependent on the medications to function. All the while, he privately dealt with the fear of others finding out. He was tormented by the potential public scrutiny.

"Everybody should be able to ask for help and they shouldn't be looked down on and judged for that," Brandy said several times throughout the documentary. If there is one lesson to be learned from this tragedy, it is that.

Roy Halladay went to rehab for his painkiller addiction during the 2013 season, his final year in the majors. Many Phillies fans will remember the stress-filled, sweat-soaked 13 starts Halladay made that final year. At times, that was a reaction to the medication in his system.

He left rehab early, Brandy said, because he had been recognized and someone had snuck a phone into the facility. Roy was nervous about word of his stint in rehab leaking out.

The struggle to find a purpose

After retirement, in the years before Halladay recaptured some of his joy and passion by coaching his sons' baseball teams, Roy "stopped taking care of himself, inside and out," according to Brandy. His weight rose to over 300 pounds at one point in retirement, then down to 205 at another.

He reentered rehab in January 2015 for the painkiller addiction and was there three months. When he returned home, he began seeing a psychiatrist and was formally diagnosed with ADD, depression and anxiety. 

In retirement, Halladay struggled to find a purpose. 

"He was lost, he didn't know what to do with himself," Brandy said. "Flying was therapeutic."

Doc's days in the air

The circumstances of Halladay's death were documented in a 2018 toxicology report and in a report from the National Transportation Safety Board last month. He had Zolpidem, amphetamine and morphine in his system at the time he crashed his Icon A5 plane into the Gulf of Mexico. According to the NTSB report, Halladay was doing extreme acrobatics when he lost control.

Halladay received his pilot's license in 2013. He had spent much time in the air with his father, Roy II, a pilot, from a young age, and had accrued more than 700 flying hours himself before the crash.

"He was an excellent pilot," Roy II said of his son. "Mechanically, his skills were very good. He kept working for additional ratings."

Yet still, Brandy didn't feel it was totally safe. 

"He was trying to fill this void by buying boats and planes and cars and shoes," she said. "Roy was an adrenaline guy, he was always looking for that rush."

When Roy got his Icon A5, a plane that made him feel like he was flying a fighter jet, "he was so excited, he couldn't control himself," Brandy said.

"My concern was after he got the (Icon A5), he kept talking about how sporty it was, how much of a sports car it was," his father said. "I said be careful with it."

The tragedy

Halladay died 35 days after getting the Icon A5. According to the NTSB report, he frequently flew at low altitudes in shallow water and flew underneath a bridge in Tampa with Brandy on board 12 days before the fatal crash.

On the day of the crash, he and Brandy were supposed to see one of their sons' band perform at a school concert. Roy told Brandy he'd return the Icon A5 to the airport and meet her there. He texted her while she was driving, "I'm so sorry, I should have just gone with you, another wasted day." Instead of flying north to the airport, he had flown west to the Gulf of Mexico where the crash occurred.

"I had so much more in the future I wanted for us and it was hard to know that it was just done," Brandy Halladay said.

"I know in my heart it was an accident. I want to make sure that people understand that he was just a man. Perfect, I hate that word, perfect. I just want him to be Roy. I hope somebody hears our story and says, 'Wow, I'm going to ask for help.'"

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Phillies Talk podcast: Still optimistic about July 4? Thoughts on Roy Halladay

Phillies Talk podcast: Still optimistic about July 4? Thoughts on Roy Halladay

On the latest Phillies Talk podcast, the guys explored whether an early-July start date could still be achievable for MLB, and their Roy Halladay memories on the 10-year anniversary of his perfect game.

• Is a July 4 start date possible at this point with no resolution in sight?

• Deadlines help, but would a deadline be artificial?

• Challenging the idea that fans would never come back if baseball went away in 2020.

• Benefits and hindrances of extending the season from 82 games to 100-110.

• The opposing perspective from the night Halladay threw his perfect game.

• Doc's legendary 2010 season even aside from that perfecto.

• A preview of the exciting 2008 Phillies playoff re-airs and specials on tap.

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