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Bryce Harper gives cancer-stricken fan special night at Nationals Park

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Bryce Harper and 13-year-old Gavin Rupp. (Washington Post)

Bryce Harper has already established himself as an impact player on the field. Now the 20-year-old outfielder is working hard to make an impact off the field, and for 13-year-old Gavin Rupp, a huge baseball fan who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor last month, Harper managed to do just that prior to the Washington Nationals home game against the San Diego Padres on Friday night.

According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, after learning of Rupp's story through their connection to Kyle’s Kamp, a foundation that raises money to support Children’s National for pediatric cancer research, the Nationals invited him to Friday's game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. That invitation included a chance to hang out in the Nationals dugout with his parents and siblings, Abby and Ian, and about two hours before first pitch they were approached by Harper.

At that point, a simple handshake, autograph and picture probably would have made Rupp's already great experience even better. But Harper went well beyond that.

“You guys want to go out on the field?” Bryce Harper asked.

The group stood off to the side as the Padres started taking batting practice. An hour later, up until about 45 minutes to first pitch, Harper was still there talking to Gavin and his family. Kyle Mann, the Nationals coordinator of community relations, had never seen a player spend so much time with a kid before a game.

According to the story, Harper and Rupp talked about everything from Ohio State football to pregame meals. Harper then wrapped up the special meeting by signing his cap and giving it to the young fan as a souvenir. A very cool gesture on Harper's part, and a touching act of kindness that won't soon be lost on Gavin Rupp's father, Chris Rupp.

“I can’t say enough. A guy who is 20 years old, to take that much time,” Chris Rupp said. His voice quivered and his eyes watered. “When I was 20 years old, I didn’t have that maturity, to do what he just did.”

For those who thought Harper might struggle with his superstardom, there's no more reason to worry. He gets it.

There's also a lot more to Rupp's story in Adam Kilgore's piece, including how he's bounced back from two previous surgeries to remove brain tumors before his recent diagnosis. The young man is definitely a fighter, and the courage and determination he's shown through his battles is something we can all take to heart and learn from.

Yes, all of us. Even Bryce Harper.

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