SAN DIEGO — The sound of Kris Bryant crushing baseballs regularly rings out at University of San Diego as he has set school records for most home runs in a single season (30) and a career (53).
“It’s funny that home runs are the thing that people talk about most,” the junior third baseman said. “At home, you play wiffle ball in the street and people will ask, ‘How many home runs have you hit today?’ That is just a part of my game that I’ve been blessed with. And I sure like hitting them.”
The 6-feet, 5-inches Bryant said he learned his heavy hitting by spending hours in the batting cage while growing up in Las Vegas.
“My dad put up a cage when I was five, I’ve been hitting in that thing ever since just dreaming about the big leagues. I’m getting closer to that, getting better, so hopefully that is a possibility for me,” he said.
Bryant credits his father, Mike, with teaching him how to hit, and getting him ready for the Major Leagues. Mike Bryant said he learned from one of the greatest hitters ever: Hoover High School graduate Ted Williams – the last major player to hit over .400 in a full season.
“(My dad) was drafted in the ninth round in 1980 by the Red Sox,” Bryant said. “(Williams) was his hitting coach at a couple big league camps so I’m learning what he taught him so I feel like I am getting the best instruction.
“There is so much that my dad has taught me over the years but the biggest thing for me was that he taught about the slight upper cut when you are swinging because the ball is coming in at a down hill angle to hit it really flush it’s kind of an upper cut swing. I feel like my swing is kind of like that. That is the biggest thing that sticks out to me that I have incorporated in my game.”
Going into the West Coast Conference four-team tournament which starts Thursday, Bryant has a .338 batting average and leads the nation in home runs, RBI (61), and walks (57). He also is one of 60 players on the Golden Spikes watch list (given to the best college player in the country) and may become the first overall pick in Major League Baseball’s June amateur draft.
“He is the best position player to come through this program while I have been here,” said USD head coach Rich Hill. “You don’t get a guy like that once maybe twice in your career if you are doing it that long.”