In a classy move, the Phillies host family of fallen police officer for 2023 home opener

The Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds get introduced at the 2023 Phillies home opener on April 7, 2023.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds get introduced at the 2023 Phillies home opener on April 7, 2023. / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

We cherish our sports -- and our sports teams -- for many reasons.

They become a part of our identity -- and a way to relate to others in our families, neighborhoods, and cities.

Few if any professional sports teams do a better job of embracing this idea than the Philadelphia Phillies.

At the beginning of a season where they could've easily made it about themselves, two Phillies players, in particular, made it about others. A family, in fact, who recently suffered a great loss.

Sergeant Christopher Fitzgerald, a Temple University police officer, was killed in the line of duty on February 18, 2023. On that fateful night, Fitzgerald tried to stop a carjacking -- and was shot and killed.

The Phillies invited Sgt. Fitzgerald's family onto the field before the home opener last week against the Cincinnati Reds. Phillies' players Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber posed for pictures and spoke with the family. Schwarber even took the children into the indoor batting cage to take some swings.

"All we can do is keep trying to remember him for what he did and see how the community can rally around him as well," Schwarber told 6ABC's Corey Davis. Having family members in law enforcement, including his parents and sister, Schwarber understands what families go through. He wanted to show the family that people do care.

But, the kindness towards the Fitzgeralds didn't end there. Schwarber and Phillies managing partner John Middleton wrote notes to the family. Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel spent some time with them as well. The team even gave the family Phillies jerseys with Sgt. Fitzgerald's badge number on the back.

“That’s what being a representative in the city of Philadelphia and extending yourself as part of the community is about and these guys just lived it out right in front of our eyes,” Sgt. Fitzgerald’s father Joel told Destiny Lugardo. Joel spent time in law enforcement in Philadelphia, Allentown, and other parts of the country. He's now the Chief of Police and Emergency Management at the Regional Transportation District in Denver, Colorado, according to The Morning Call.

Perhaps, the most beautiful wasn't everything that happened before the game. But, what happened during it -- specifically the 4th inning. The sell-out crowd came to their feet to applaud the family and salute Sgt. Fitzgerald. In a city that often gets a bad rap nationally, it was a perfect testament to Sgt. Fitzgerald's sacrifice.

The experience left a mark that will stick with the Fitzgeralds. It meant the world to the family for the Phillies to take time for them and acknowledge Christopher.

Marissa Fitzgerald, Sgt. Fitzgerald's widow expressed as much to NBC10: "Just to see my kids excited and happy is something that warms my heart, and I know their father would want to see them happy."