The Real Deal

by Peter Proko Photography Miles Kennedy | Jul 11, 2024
The Real Deal
Bryson Stott wants you to know he can hear you loud and clear.

Of course, he’s referring to the fact that each time he steps up to bat at Citizens Bank Park he is serenaded by tens of thousands of fans as they sing his walk-up song, Tai Verde’s “AOK.” The song has accompanied Stott for the last few seasons and has become a clear fan favorite. In fact, travel around to any local Little League field and you’re likely to see youngsters stepping into the batter’s box while the song echoes in the background.

So Stott wants to assure the fans that he loves hearing their voices bellow from the stands and he wishes he could sing along—after all, he did choose the song because he loves it just as much. But he’s too locked in to join the party.

“I hear them singing, and I want to do something with them, but I can’t because I am going to the plate,” Stott says. “It’s fun because you like a song and you want to hear it, but I didn’t know it was going to get this much traction.”

And while other players on the team change their tunes year to year, some even within the season, Stott says the song’s connection to the fans has been cemented.

“It’s not going anywhere,” he affirms. “I’ve been told plenty of times on social media that I can never change it.”

While the song certainly gets the crowd excited, nothing has Phillies fans buzzing more than the team’s high level of play in recent seasons. After two years of long playoff runs, this season the team got off to the franchise’s best start since 1913 and Stott remains a major contributor. A skilled glove in the field, he’s also becoming one of the game’s better hitters, especially in clutch moments. As the team looks to get back to, and hopefully win, the World Series, Stott is poised to play a major role.

We had the opportunity to chat with the talented young star about his goals for this season and beyond, his special bond with Bryce Harper and how the loss of a close childhood friend continues to inspire him and others.

 

To have such great postseason runs ultimately be cut short the past couple of years, how much does that fuel you guys to try and get over that hump? Obviously, winning a World Series is always the goal, but it’s certainly more realistic for some teams versus others.

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There’s certain things that we would like to have done differently in those games. Obviously, we can’t do that now, so there’s always the goal to get back there. The things that we did do well, we want to keep doing. And the things that we didn’t do well, we want to change. So, I think we are in a good spot.

 

You have continued to improve both in the field and at the plate. Do you have any personal goals you are looking to achieve this season?
Not really, just to be able to play every day and stay on the field. I want to go out there and have good at-bats and play good defense. As long as the team is playing well, all the personal stuff comes with that. I just want to be ready when my name is called and go out and give it my best.

 

You and Brandon Marsh are certainly popular with the fans, but you two are even more beloved for ambushing your teammates during postgame interviews. Are you surprised how much attention those celebrations have received?
Kind of. The amount of people who are still at the games when it’s over and wait for five minutes for the TV crew to get set up, that doesn’t really surprise us. The people [here] don’t leave early and it’s pretty cool.

 

What about when you’re on the receiving end, do you get it way worse because everyone is trying to pay you back?
Yeah, they let me know.

 

The fans can see how much you guys pull for each other and it resonates. How fun is it to be a part of this group? I’m sure the success you’ve had helps, but it really seems like you guys are extremely close-knit.
Anytime you get a good clubhouse, they’re not teammates, they’re friends and brothers. I don’t think that’s the case in a lot of locker rooms in baseball, or in all of sports period. It’s good to have that closeness and that bond. When we go out to eat, everyone is going out to eat. It’s not a couple guys here and there, we’ll get 10, 15, 20 guys each time. It’s just a blast to be a part of that.

 

With the team performing so well in recent years, the fans have really come out in full force. Can you talk a little bit about what they mean to you guys?
It’s unbelievable. Obviously the playoffs are a whole different level of craziness, but during the regular season the fans are also packing the games. Or they’ll see us in the street and say, “Good luck.” I think it’s really cool to know they care so much.

When you’re not doing well, they obviously let you know. When you are doing well, it’s great. You just want to make sure you’re giving your all and trying your hardest and showing effort on each play, and they’re going to love you. We have a lot of guys who understand that. Yeah, you might not be playing the best, but you’re still out there giving it your all. Hustling, being aggressive, things like that … I think this team knows how to play here and that’s why we connect so well with the fans. It’s been an absolute blast.

 

In June, Phillies fans will get the chance to travel to London to see you guys take on the New York Mets. Are you excited for the opportunity to play in that series?
Yeah, that should be a fun series. I think it’s cool what MLB is doing with trying to grow the game. I’ve been to London and it’s a cool city, so I can’t wait to go back.

 

Last year at the MLB Little League Classic you got a lot of attention for your No. 2 pencil bat. Do you have something special lined up for this year?
Yeah, I got something. I don’t know if I’ll be able to use it during the game, but during batting practice I’ll have something.

 

You have a special relationship with Bryce Harper, having known him since you were a young child. What has he been like as both a mentor and now a teammate?
It’s been kind of everything you would want. He’ll be there if I’m struggling, he’ll be there when I’m going good. It’s just really cool that our families go back so long ago. I remember I was 5, 6, 7 and going to watch my brother play and Bryce being on that team. He was the best player on the field and he was a year younger than everyone else.

When I got a little older, we’d go to eat with his mom, his sister—his sister, that’s the connection. She cheered for my mom when she was in high school. My mom was the cheer coach and [Bryce’s sister] went to the school she taught at. That’s where the first connection happened. So, we’d go out to eat with them and Bryan, Bryce’s older brother.

As I got older, I was like there’s no way we know this guy who is on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I’ll always remember, he was maybe 14 or 15, and we were in San Diego watching a game and the team he was playing travel ball with was there. We were standing in line and he walked over to my mom and said hello and gave her a hug and I was like, “No freaking way, [it’s Bryce].”

To have someone to look up to since I was young—I mean I have an older brother and he played baseball, but obviously he wasn’t as good as Bryce was. I have kind of always looked up to Bryce and how he goes about it and approaches the game.

 

Two other crucial members of the team, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, signed with the team long-term in the offseason. What does it mean for the ball club to have those two aces at the top of your pitching rotation for the foreseeable future?
They are two of the best in the game, for them to anchor our rotation for the next couple of years is huge. And you couldn’t ask for better teammates or better people. And that’s one of the biggest things, obviously they are both great pitchers, but the type of people they are makes them even greater. In the clubhouse everyone loves them and we couldn’t be happier for those two.

 

Let’s talk about life away from the game for a minute. You recently welcomed a baby girl Braxtyn into the world. How has fatherhood been treating you thus far?
It’s great. Our teammates have a lot of kids and they were telling me [being a father] is the greatest thing ever. And it’s been everything that we could have imagined. She’s been awesome and a lot of fun. She’s already lived in two houses and she’s only 5 months old. It’s a crazy life, and my wife is phenomenal and so good with her. It’s the best feeling when you leave a game or see them in the stands, it’s been incredible.

 

Speaking of kids, one of the coolest moments during your career has to be the kid who was praying on TV during your at bat, only to see you crush a game-winning homer moments later. And you made it a point to later connect with him and let him know how much you appreciated him. How special are those interactions with the younger fans?
I’ll sign thousands of balls for younger kids because I remember being that young kid. I was never an autograph kid, I would just lean on the fence and watch. I thought this is their job and I play baseball for fun, so I didn’t want to mess with that. If I got a ball, great. If I got it signed, even better. But I know how much it means to those kids.

It’s a lot different than how I grew up. In Vegas we didn’t have a team, we had to drive four or five hours [to see a game]. But when you are a kid who lives in Philadelphia or New Jersey or Delaware, all you know is the Phillies. So I make sure I go out of my way to sign stuff if they ask for it.

Being able to connect with [the kid in the stands] was great, so I could let him know that his prayers worked because I needed them at the time.

 

Last season, there was also a young Phillies fan who lost his father to cancer and you made sure to gift him tickets to the NLCS. Why was that important for you to try and make that fan’s day?
I have a huge soft spot for cancer after losing my best friend [to leukemia] when he was 17. I know how hard that is and anything I can do to help someone who is going through that, I try to do the best I can. To give up two tickets, it’s not going to hurt me. My wife said I should give the tickets to this family, they need them more than she needed them. It’s a soft spot for me and my wife knows that and so I’ll do that anytime I can help make someone’s day.

 

Speaking of your late childhood friend Cooper, you wear No. 5 because that was his high school basketball number. What does it mean to you to be able carry your friend with you on your baseball journey?
Any time you can honor your friends or family, it’s special. He didn’t make it to see what’s going on now. But I’m still really close with our two other friends, there were four of us that were best friends. And I still talk to his mom and his sisters all the time.

But being able to have everything line up and the No. 5 be [available] and take it with me … he always said I was going to go to the MLB and he was going to go to the NBA. Wearing the No. 5 makes it feel like he’s here and he’s watching and what he was saying came true. You can’t put a price on how much it means, it’s been amazing.

 

When you’re all said and done with the game of baseball and you look back on your career, what do you hope to see?
Somebody who played. That’s my big thing, being on the field and being able to play as many games in a season as I can. You can’t help the team or the city win if you’re hurt, so I try to do a good job and stay with my stretching routines and stay in the weight room and things like that. I want to be able to look back and say I was playing 150, 160 games a season for X amount of years and kind of be a mentor or an idol for young kids who want to grow up and be Major League Baseball players.

I was always the smallest kid on my teams growing up, I weighed the least. Even in high school, I was 5 feet tall as a freshman and 5-foot-4 as a sophomore. I was thinking there was no way I would be able to do this, but I never gave up. My plan A was to always be a Major League Baseball player. I didn’t pick a major in college, because this is what I wanted to do and I tried to do everything in my power to make it happen. I think kids can do the same and I want to be their idol and show them that if you have a dream and you want to go get it, to go get it.

 


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Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 21, Issue 2 (May2024)

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Author: Peter Proko Photography by Miles Kennedy

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