Baseball fans have now had their first chance to see two of baseball’s best young stars — Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals and Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs — face each other in a regular season series.
But friends and family have been watching Harper and Bryant play with (and against) each another for over a decade now.
The two first played together on the same Las Vegas youth baseball team. Harper was seven and Bryant was nine. Even back then, Bryant told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Harper played with the older kids because he was just that talented of a player:
“He was always bigger than the competition. He was always just better, and he was younger. It was crazy to see that, how advanced he was at such a young age. Even now, in the big leagues, he’s still very young.”
While Harper is entering his fourth season in the majors, he is still only 22 years old — a year younger than Bryant, who is in the middle of his rookie year.
Both young players starred on Tuesday night.
With the Washington Nationals trailing the Chicago Cubs 1-0, and having failed to score a run throughout the first six innings, launched a solo shot over the left field wall to tie the game at 1-1:
An inning later, with the Cubs now behind 2-1, rookie phenomenon Bryant followed suit — hitting his own solo shot home run over the left field wall to even the score, and help lead the Cubs to their eventual 3-2 victory:
Although it may have taken Bryant a little bit longer to get to the majors, he’s already performing at a high level. In his last 17 games Bryant has hit seven home runs and 18 RBI’s to emerge as the early favourite for NL Rookie of the Year.
Bryant’s father, Mike Bryant, told ESPN that the two had their best campaign together when they were on the same club team, the Southern Nevada Bulldogs, as teenagers. Harper was 13 and Bryant 14. The duo led the Bulldogs to multiple championships and had “a lot of big moments”:
“There was the time Bryce hit a ball over 400 feet when he was just 13. And when Kris pitched a one-hit complete game, and Bryce’s home run was the lone score to beat a real good California team. There were a lot them.”
The two ultimately chose different paths after that. Harper attended Las Vegas High School for two years, gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated and being labelled “Baseball’s Chose One” at just 16 years old, before earning his GED to attend junior college and be eligible for the 2010 MLB Draft — where he was taken No. 1 overall by the Nationals.
Bryant went to a different high school before going to the University of San Diego for three seasons where he eventually became a national sensation. He then chose to forgo his senior year and would be taken with the No. 2 pick in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Cubs.
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