USD Stud Passes Through Irvine, Smacks Monster Home Run

Marlon Castillo | New University

Marlon Castillo | New University

Torero: Kris Bryant is the best play at UC Irvine since Stephen Strasburg played at Cicerone in 2009.

It isn’t every day a highly-touted, Major League prospect plays in your backyard. Of course, that was until Kris Bryant and the University of San Diego Toreros rolled into Cicerone Field on Wednesday night for a mid-week showdown against the host UC Irvine Anteaters.

It was the second time the two teams had met this season, the first game resulting in an 11-3 road victory for the Anteaters.

While Wednesday’s game ended in the Toreros’ favor, many of those in attendance were not there to see the final score. The majority of spectators, predominately MLB scouts who filled the section behind home plate, flocked Anteater Ballpark on this warm, Wednesday May evening hoping to catch a glimpse of the player whom many people around baseball are predicting to be the first overall pick in this year’s upcoming MLB Draft.

Bryant, a six-foot-five-inch, 215-pound junior third baseman out of Las Vegas, Nevada, entered Wednesday’s game leading the nation with 29 home runs through 53 games this season. To put it in perspective, UC Irvine had hit just 19 home runs as a team. No doubt, the guy has power.

It wasn’t too long ago that another potential first overall pick took the field at Anteater Ballpark. Nearly four years ago, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who at the time was pitching for San Diego State, tossed seven innings and punched out 15 batters in his lone loss of the season to the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2009 NCAA Regionals. Strasburg went on to be drafted first overall in the 2009 MLB Draft.

Interestingly enough, the man who currently represents Strasburg — MLB super-agent Scott Boras — was also in attendance Wednesday night. It has been rumored that Boras will likely be advising Bryant in the upcoming draft. Boras, whose clients include a list of all-star players from across MLB, also represented 2010 first overall pick Bryce Harper, who, by the way, rivaled Bryant growing up in the Las Vegas area. Although Harper decided to forgo college for the MLB, Bryant has made a name for himself in the college ranks.

Marlon Castillo | New University

Marlon Castillo | New University

In his first at-bat of Wednesday’s game, Bryant led-off in anti-climatic fashion, striking out looking after taking three straight pitches from UCI starter, Kyle Hooper. However, it didn’t take long for the scouts to see what they came for. Bryant wasted no time in his second at-bat, connecting on the first pitch he saw in the top half of the second inning and launching a shot 400 feet over the left-centerfield wall for his 30th home run of the year. The home run tied the record for the most home runs in a season by an individual since the BBCOR standards were adopted in 2012 by the NCAA, banning the use of uncertified aluminum and composite bats in collegiate baseball.

In his third at-bat, Bryant flew-out against left-handed pitcher Jimmy Litchfield, driving a 1-2 pitch to the deepest part of the field. While the ball came just short of clearing the 405-feet centerfield wall, it quite possibly could’ve been his 31st home run in his home, Fowler Park, which only spans 391 feet in center. In the seventh, Bryant led off the inning and took a 2-0 pitch from right-hander Evan Brock to the warning track, opposite field, where it was caught for the first out of the inning.

Race Parmenter struck out Bryant in his final at-bat of the night.

The anticipation from the crowd, scouts and players after every pitch and every swing pointed toward a special type of player. We’ll have to wait until June 6 to see if the Houston Astros decide to take Bryant first overall. Someday soon, perhaps Bryant will join Mike Trout and Bryce Harper as one of the phenoms of the next generation of sluggers.