The Philadelphia Phillies honored fallen Temple University Police Sergeant Christopher Fitzgerald and his family before their season-opening home game on April 7. Fitzgerald was fatally in the line of duty on February 18 while pursuing a robbery suspect near the school’s campus. In recognition of his sacrifice, the Phillies invited his parents, widow and four young children to attend their home opener. When the family came onto the field to watch batting practice beforehand, players Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos gave the kids impromptu lessons.
The special moment was made possible through Schwarber’s Neighborhood Heroes program.
Fitzgerald’s father, Joel, a former 17-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, praised the players’ generosity.
“The time that Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber spent with my grandkids — taking them to the team, working with Nick’s son, Liam — the Phillies didn’t have to do all that,” he told the Phillies Beat newsletter. “But they get it.”
Castellanos even offered his wife’s contact information to the family to reach out anytime they attend future games.
“It helps them out, but honestly, it helps my family out a lot, too,” Castellanos explained. “It’s no secret that I’m a very blessed individual — I have two very healthy boys. So, any time we can give back and make other people happy or take away whatever weight or pain they might be feeling at the moment, we’re very happy to do so.”
During the third inning, Fitzgerald’s family was recognized on the field and received a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd. The fallen officer was a devoted fan of all Philadelphia sports, particularly the Phillies.
“He would have loved all this,” his mother, Pauline, said. “There’s a certain type of happiness today, but also a certain type of sadness, because he’s not here to enjoy it with us.”
Fitzgerald’s wife, Marisa, shared that he had planned to bring her to this game.
“So in a way, it feels like he did,” she said.
The emotional day was filled with meaningful moments for the Fitzgerald family, from their children meeting their heroes to seeing old pictures of Christopher on the videoboard during a standing ovation. Schwarber also provided the family with a touching handwritten note.
Joel expressed his gratitude: “Our family will never be able to repay John Middleton and the Buck family for what they’ve done for us today because they brought some smiles to our faces in the darkest time of our lives.”
The next day, the family attended a motorcycle rally held on the university campus in honor of Fitzgerald.
The community showed an overwhelming outpouring of support for the fallen officer, with hundreds of motorcyclists in attendance.
“He gave his life up for the community and for the city,” one member of the Three6Nine Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club told Fox 29 News. “We’re giving back to him today.”