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NL RoY Award to Cubs' Bryant

Jeff Dahn

Published: Tuesday, November 17, 2015

When it comes to reaping the rewards of outstanding play, Kris Bryant has never had to sit around and wait very long for the praise and accolades to come his way.

Since first walking out onto a kids-league field in his native Las Vegas and continuing right through stellar high school, Perfect Game, collegiate and Minor League Baseball careers, Bryant was immediately recognized as the best of the best.

A reaffirmation of his top-notch talent took place again Monday night when the Chicago Cubs’ 23-year-old slugging third baseman was named the National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year in balloting conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).

Bryant, a 2009 Perfect Game All-American, was a unanimous choice for the award, collecting all 30 first-place votes from the BBWAA members; San Francisco Giants third baseman Matt Duffy finished a distance second and Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang was third in the balloting.

“It’s awesome,” Bryant told MLB Network Monday night. “Obviously, Matt and Jung Ho had really good seasons and a lot of the other guys, too, a lot of the other rookies I played with and against. So many people were deserving of this award, and it truly is an honor for me to win it.”

The naming of Bryant as the National League RoY and Carlos Correa as the American League RoY brings to 10 the number of Perfect Game alumni that have received the award in the last eight years. The previous winners were Geovany Soto (NL, 2008); Chris Coghlan (NL, 2009); Buster Posey (NL, 2010); Jeremy Hellickson (AL, 2011); Bryce Harper (NL, 2012); Mike Trout (AL, 2012); Jose Fernandez (NL, 2013) and Wil Myers (AL, 2013). Bryant (2009) and Correa (2011) join Posey (2004), Hellickson (2004), Harper (2009) and Fernandez (2010) as former PG All-Americans.

Coming off a 2014 season in which he was named the minor league player of the year by at least one media outlet and a 2015 spring training campaign in which he hit .425 with nine home runs and 15 RBI in 14 games and 40 at-bats, Cubs fans – and agent Scott Boras – were roundly disappointed when the front office announced Bryant would start the season at Triple-A Iowa.

It was a short wait, however, and the slugger made his big-league debut on Friday afternoon, April 27, against the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field; he promptly went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, but soon righted the ship.

Bryant ended up playing in 151 regular-season games and slashed .275/.369/.488 with 26 home runs, five triples and 31 doubles, 99 RBI, 87 runs scored and 13 stolen bases; in July, he was named to the NL All-Star Team.

The Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card playoff game and won the best-of-five NL Division Series in four games over the St. Louis Cardinals before getting swept by the New York Mets in four games in the NL Championship Series. Bryant struggled at the plate in the postseason, hitting .176 (6-for-34) with a double, triple, two home runs, five RBI and two runs in nine games.

“Things turned out great,” Bryant said Monday. “We won, we went really far in the playoffs, I think we surprised a lot of teams and I think moving on from this season … the future is so bright for this team.”

Bryant first made a name for himself first at Bonanza High School in Las Vegas and then while participating in six Perfect Game events the summers before his junior and senior years:

The 2008 PG Showcase at AFLAC All-American Game in San Diego; 2008 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., with the Ohio Warhawks; 2009 PG National Showcase at the Metrodome in Minneapolis; 2009 PG (Aflac) All-American Classic at Petco Park in San Diego; 2009 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter with the Warhawks; and the 2009 PG Bo Jackson’s 5-Tool Championship in Jupiter, held in conjunction with year’s WWBA World.

By playing in the PG All-American Classic – he was on the same West Team roster as the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper – the PG National Showcase and the PG WWBA World Championship, Bryant had reached Perfect Game’s three most brightly lit stages. He loved the spotlight and it loved him right back.

“It was obviously something different but it was something that I needed to do in order to be where I’m at today,” Bryant told PG during an interview in 2013.  “I really feel like (Perfect Game) gets the best competition that (it) can get and it’s great for the sport of baseball. I’m happy I was able to attend those events because it really got me on the map and it really got me looked at.”

Mike Bryant, Kris’s father, played a big role in his son’s development as a ballplayer, and told PG during a conversation at the PG/EvoShield National Championship in the Phoenix area in mid-September that he thought it was important for Kris to have those experiences on his resume.

“My feelings were that I wanted to get Kris to play above his own ability level and dominate (at PG events) so he could continue to move up,” Mike said “Coming into high school, he was basically in the same boat as a lot of these guys are right now. He had to separate himself from the other talent … and Perfect Game was a part of that.”

Kris Bryant graduated from Bonanza High School in 2010 with a 4.6 GPA – USA Today High School Sports named him First Team All-USA and PG had him ranked No. 39 nationally – and the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the 18th round of the 2010 MLB Draft.

Although he felt prepared for life as a professional, Bryant wisely chose to spend the next three years at the U. of San Diego where he developed into one of the country’s top college players. He was named a Freshman All-American in 2011 and a First Team All-American in 2012, while also being selected to play for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.

It all came together for him during his junior season in 2013 when he led NCAA Division I in more than a dozen offensive categories was the recipient of the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy, both of which recognize the College Player of the Year. The Cubs made him the No. 2 overall selection in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Bryant wound up playing in 181 games in parts of three minor league seasons (2013-15) and hit .327 with 49 doubles and 55 home runs, driving in 152 runs and scoring 147 others.

The 2014 minor league player of the year award came on the heels of the recognition he received at those PG events in San Diego, Minneapolis and Jupiter and also he took home the coveted Golden Spikes and Dick Howser awards in college.

And don’t expect this Rookie of the Year Award to be the last piece of hardware Bryant carts home. The way he played this season seems to indicate there might be an MVP or two in the young player’s future.

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