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Bryce And Alec Have A Secret

Bryce Harper celebrates his home run with Alec Bohm
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

More than a few writers have pointed out that the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies have something of the vibe of a college baseball team, especially when contrasted with their more established, more boring opponents like the Cardinals, Braves, and now Astros. As the sixth seed in the National League, who prior postseason formats would not have even allowed into October, this squad enjoys a devil-may-care outsider mentality that has energized both their locker room celebrations and their home crowds. That’s an impressive feat given their $255 million payroll, but the way their games have gone—filled with unexpected comebacks and sudden bursts of power—it’s almost as if the Phillies themselves don’t always understand what they’re doing. They just show up, swing their bats, and have fun.

I’m wary of mythologizing these grown men too much, but every new piece of information can’t help but add to my perception that the Phillies are a charmed collection of weirdos. Take this story from Jake Mintz at Fox Sports, about how Matt Vierling was handing out cigs after the Phillies clinched the pennant. These guys are both 26 years old, but they might as well be at a motel pool after junior prom:

So, after a bit back and forth, Bohm relented. Vierling fished into the box and pulled out a single cigarette, handing it to Bohm. The shirtless third baseman reluctantly accepted the offering and tried taking a puff, before realizing that his tobacco tube lacked the requisite fire.

“I got you, man.” Vierling replied.

But instead of pulling a lighter out of his pocket, he leaned his face toward Bohm’s until the edges of their cigarettes — Vierling’s lit, Bohm’s in need of a spark — made contact. After a second or two, Bohm’s heater caught flame via the embers of Vierling’s, and like a twisted dirtbag version of “Lady and the Tramp,” the two ballplayers had succeeded in their outrageous task.

Bohm inhaled.

“Oh, wow, that’s gross,” He sputtered, coughing out a bit of smoke. “I really don’t want this.”

The 6-foot-5 third baseman discarded his just-lit cigarette to the carpeted floor and immediately stomped it out with the underside of his flip-flop. Then, to wash the taste out of his mouth, he leaned back and helped himself a hefty swig of beer.

There is a refreshing lack of polish around this whole team. There’s no “act like you’ve been there before” or “one game at a time.” Each win that gets them closer to a championship becomes a new reason for joy, which in turn leads to another delightful anecdote or memorable quote. Personally, I liked this simple honesty after Game 3 on Tuesday:

But there is at least one thing that the Phillies are keeping close to their chest, and that’s whatever transpired between Alec Bohm and Bryce Harper after the latter gave his team a 2-0 lead with a big blast in the bottom of the first on Tuesday. While the messy-haired third baseman was taking his practice swings in the on-deck circle, the cameras caught Harper calling him back to the dugout, either to impart some crucial piece of information about facing Lance McCullers, or just to say “Go get ’em, tiger.”

It looked like it worked. Bohm sent the first pitch he saw into the first row in left field, furthering speculation that the Phillies had figured something out about the Astros’ starting pitcher. Fans didn’t have to wait long to hear Bohm asked about what Harper said to him, but with Ken Rosenthal in the dugout, Bohm was adorably coy.

And in the postgame, too, he stayed tight-lipped:

It’s their secret! If they did genuinely have some dirt on McCullers, who could conceivably return to the mound later in the series, they don’t want to tip off Houston. But whether Harper said “His right eye twitches when he’s throwing a sinker” or “Check out the blonde in the seventh row,” the secrecy can only help the Phillies look smarter and make the Astros more anxious. If it bugs you, though, and you really want to learn what was said, I don’t think you have to worry too much. This team is not the taciturn, introverted type. Bohm’s going to blurt it out at some point.

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