Pirates rookie Oneil Cruz’s bat almost hit Phillies legend Mickey Morandini.
As the Philadelphia Phillies welcomed back seven-time All-Star Bryce Harper to their lineup after a lengthy injured list stint on Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, another franchise legend — 1993 National League champion Mickey Morandini — nearly went down with an injury himself.
Facing Phillies left-hander Bailey Falter in the top of the third, Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz struck out swinging at a low-and-away slider. The shortstop’s at-bat wasn’t the only thing lost on the swing — as the rookie also lost his actual bat, which went flying off the top of the protective net and into the crowd. Morandini was sitting just a row exactly behind the Phillies fan who got ahold of the bat.
A representative from the Pirates later requested that the Phillies fan offer back Cruz’s game bat in exchange for one of his brand-new batting practice bats. That definitely seemed like a bad trade.
Luckily, Morandini was there to save the day, as he later presented the fan — who was coincidentally celebrating her birthday — with a signed Harper bat on behalf of the Phillies. Okay, now I am jealous.
Standing at 6-foot-7, the 23-year-old Dominican Republic native Cruz is considered one of Major League Baseball’s rising stars. This season, Cruz notably has logged the hardest-hit ball (122.4 miles per hour) and the fastest throw by an infielder (97.8 miles per hour) during the Statcast era (since 2015).
Through 54 career games and 214 plate appearances entering Friday’s series opener against the Phillies, Cruz slashed .205/.252/.410 with six doubles, one triple, 11 home runs, 33 RBI, 13 walks, and 83 strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Morandini — who currently serves as a Phillies Club Ambassador — played in parts of nine seasons with the organization from 1990-97 and 2000. Through 11 seasons, 1,298 games and more than 5,100 plate appearances in his career overall, the second baseman slashed .268/.338/.359 in the majors with 209 doubles, 54 triples, 32 home runs and 351 RBI.
A 1995 National League All-Star, Morandini logged three singles, a triple, and two RBI in the 1993 NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. In that year’s Fall Classic, the Pennsylvania native produced a single and walk across six plate appearances.
Before assuming the role of club ambassador in 2018, Morandini spent the previous two seasons as the Phillies’ first base coach and baserunning instructor. Prior, he spent five years in the organization’s minor-league system as a coach for Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Double-A Reading, as well as manager for Single-A Lakewood and Single-A Williamsport.
Morandini notably ranks fourth among Phillies second basemen all-time in games played (926). Thankfully, Cruz’s errant bat did not injure him — nor anyone else in his vicinity.