It was the bottom of the ninth. The score was tied 2-2, St. Louis Cardinals vs the Colorado Rockies. Horace Mann School alumnus Harrison Bader ’12 stepped to the plate as the inning’s lead-off batter, and smashed a double into the left-field corner. Advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by Greg Garcia, Bader scored the winning run on Jedd Gyorko’s short sac fly—short enough for the 41,514 fans at Busch Stadium to see Bader race down the third-base line and slide home for the winning run.
The fans were on their feet, as Bader’s new teammates crowded the infield to douse him and Gyorko with Gatorade. The TV cameras flashed to his family—his father, Louis Bader, mother Janice Baio-Bader, and sister, recent HM graduate Sasha Bader ’17, screaming in the stands.
Only 11 hours earlier, on the morning of July 25, 2017, Harrison Bader was in Memphis, Tenn. preparing to play that night for the Redbirds, the Cardinals’ Triple-A minor league affiliate. At about 10:30 a.m. the 23-year-old was surprised when he heard from his Memphis manager Stubby Clapp that the Cardinals were calling Bader up to “the show.” Outfielder Dexter Fowler had been placed on the disabled list, and they needed Bader to step in at Center Field. He quickly gathered his belongings and, together with his dad, hopped into a car service the team ordered. Louis Bader just, luckily, happened to be visiting his son in Memphis, and accompanied the rookie on what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called “the ride of a lifetime.” Four hours later Bader reported for duty. Janice Baio-Bader and Sasha Bader scrambled to get on a flight to St. Louis. Leaving from LaGuardia at 5:45 p.m., together with some friends, their party arrived at the stadium in the fifth inning, in time to catch Bader’s third at bat. Bader’s HM classmates Edgar D. Legaspi Valencia ’12 and Stephen Lipton ’12 made the trip as well.
Horace Mann Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly heard the news from Bader’s mother on Tuesday, and exchanged texts with the former Lions Varsity Baseball stand-out. “I’m so happy for him,” said Dr. Kelly. “He’s worked hard for this moment and never gave up on this dream.” Having caught Bader’s winning run live as he watched the game online Dr. Kelly added, “We’re all so proud.”
Bader is the second HM-er to make the major leagues, following Pedro Alvarez ’05.
Drafted by the Cardinals as the 100th overall pick in 2015 during Bader’s senior year at the University of Florida, where he starred as an outfielder for the Gators, Bader moved up quickly through the Cardinals’ farm system. By July 25, 2017 he was batting a smoking .403 (29 for 72) with 10 homers against lefties, and drawing much media attention. Batting seventh for the Cards in his MLB debut Bader slammed his double on a 95-mph ball by lefty Jake McGee in his fourth-ever at-bat in the Majors.
Interviewed by ESPN, NBC and other national news outlets, Bader, his face still dripping with Gatorade, said he wasn’t nervous coming into his first major league game. “I just wanted to contribute.” Contribute he did, bringing the Cardinals to four games out in the National League Central Division. Bader ran against a strong throw by the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez. “Game’s on the line, so, kind of do-or-die moment,” Bader told the Associated Press. “As soon as you see the ball make any contact with the glove you just put your head down and run in a straight line.”
Confident in Bader’s speed, guts and baseball instincts the Cardinals did not hesitate to send him running from third to home. “We have to take a chance and then trust in the speed,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told the AP. “Jedd got enough and Bader did the rest. It was, I’m sure, a first game he’ll never forget.”
ESPN’s Sports Center made Bader’s debut one of its top stories of the night, featuring an interview with Louis Bader, who recalled noticing his son’s baseball acumen from as early as the age of 5. Bader’s dad spoke of the effort Harrison has devoted to baseball ever since. As the alum’s new MLB coach told the world, it was a game Harrison Bader will never forget.
Photograph above provided by the Bader family.