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Tampa Bay Rays' Brett Phillips credits hardest-hit home run to young fan battling cancer

Brett Phillips credits home run to fan battling cancer
Tampa Bay Rays' Brett Phillips credits home run to fan battling cancer 02:50

St. Petersburg, Florida — Watching 8-year-old Chloe Grimes talking smack, hitting liners and throwing heat, you'd never guess she is also fighting cancer, and has been, off and on, since the age of 2. 

The girl has grit, which is why the Tampa Bay Rays recently invited Grimes to toss out a first pitch. She threw it to a player named Brett Phillips, who now believes the moment wasn't so much ceremonial as it was serendipitous.

"What a story, right?" Phillips told CBS News. "You can't not think that there was some divine intervention."

Phillips, No. 35, is Grimes' favorite player, even though he's not exactly an all-star. He's not the best hitter in the league — "but he's so nice," Grimes told CBS News. Her assessment was spot-on. 

Phillips comes out 20 minutes before every game to talk with kids, almost to the point of parenting. He makes time for people, even in the middle of play. I've never seen a professional athlete so devoid of bravado, especially on the day Grimes walked into his life.

"You know, I had the chance to meet Chloe for the first time and she's battling cancer and she brought me these gifts. She wrote my name on a softball. Holy cow," Phillips said in an emotional interview with Bally Sports Sun's sideline reporter Tricia Whitaker after the game last week. 

Among those gifts was a bracelet with the slogan "Rally for Chloe Our Princess Warrior," which he wore during the game, hoping it would bring him good luck. Sure enough, on that night, he hit a home run. If not for the roof, it might have left the building. 

"It was the hardest ball I've hit in my major league career," he said. 

Needless to say, Phillips won't be taking off that bracelet anytime soon. Although Grimes insists that she got the better gift.

"He gave me spirit to beat the butt out of cancer," she said. 

To Phillips, her smile is what baseball is all about. 

"I've been blessed with a platform to spread joy and love on a daily basis," he said. 

This week, he surprised Grimes at her house with the home run ball he hit that night, and cemented their friendship, earning him the greatest title in professional sports — most valuable presence in a child's life. 

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