Kris Bryant’s bombs make way to Boise Hawks

No. 2 overall pick in 2013 MLB Draft hits first pro home run in home debut.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comJuly 27, 2013 

  • BRYANT WILL GET THE CALL OFTEN

    The Boise Hawks and their fans will get to see plenty of No. 2 overall pick Kris Bryant as long as he is in a Boise uniform.

    Bryant has started at third base each of his four games with the team, and his powerful bat will often be in the lineup, even if he isn’t on the field.

    “We’re going to give him as many reps as possible,” Hawks manager Gary Van Tol said. “… we’re not going to push him, it’s more of a grind than college, but we’re going to have him DH, too.”

    Jordan Hankins and Danny Lockhart have shared most of the time at third base thus far, and will likely see less time there with Bryant on the roster, but Van Tol noted both can play second, as well.

    “They’ve just got to keep working hard, with how the roster changes, they’ll get strings of at-bats, and when not, they’ll need to be ready to go,” he said.

  • Five Boise Hawks pitchers combined to strike out 12, and allowed only one hit after the second inning in a 9-1 win over the Spokane Indians on Friday.

    Boise (23-19) got three hits from shortstop Carlos Penalver, while six other hitters registered one hit apiece, including Kris Bryant, who homered in his home debut.

— With all the eye-popping numbers, the tales of his record power grew, and the talents of Kris Bryant grew to near-mythical proportions.

By fourth grade, home runs were routinely hit over the Little League fence.

In high school, a 500-foot blast hit a guy driving his truck in the neck as he drove beyond the left-field wall.

With an aluminum bat, he might have hit the most homers in a season by a college player.

A home run this March might have gone 600 feet.

So it was a bit of a “Mighty Casey” moment when the No. 2 overall pick of the Chicago Cubs in June’s draft from the University of San Diego was 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in his Boise Hawks debut Tuesday in Eugene, Ore.

“It was a little surprising, yeah,” said Hawks pitcher Michael Wagner, a former teammate of Bryant’s at USD. “But with him, he’s always had huge expectations, and has met them every time. He doesn’t stay down for long.”

Sure enough, that was the case Friday.

Bryant, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound third baseman making his home debut with the Hawks — blasted his first professional home run in the third inning, a three-run shot, in his 14th professional at-bat.

“It felt great to get it out of the way, that first one, no matter what level, is the hardest,” said Bryant, who was 1-for-4 with a walk Friday. “… my parents were here, home debut, that was pretty fun.”

The 21-year-old who hit more home runs this past season himself than three-fourths of Division I teams quickly was wrung of every ounce of humility, of which he already had plenty, with that inauspicious start.

“It can only get better from here, and that game might wind up the worst I ever have, so maybe I can look back at it and have a good laugh,” said Bryant, who had nearly six weeks between his final college game and his pro debut Sunday in Mesa, Ariz.

The 31 home runs Bryant hit for the Toreros last season (in 62 games) were 10 more than any other player in the nation, and the most since the NCAA switched from aluminum bats to a composite bat that acts similar to wood bats in 2011.

Home runs have dropped by a third since the switch, yet Bryant still smashed towering longballs, like that one in March against Saint Louis that sailed over an 80-foot tall light pole, a blast the fictional Mudville slugger would have admired.

“It was ridiculous — it gets farther every time you talk about it,” Wagner said.

Though Bryant has his first home run behind him, he is still seeking more consistency at the plate, whether it be with a home run, or just simply getting on base.

“I expect a lot of myself, but I’m not going to pressure myself to hit a home run every day,” Bryant said. “If I did that, it’d be pretty boring. It’s a game where you get out more often than not, you fail and fail, then when you succeed, it tastes so good. College was last season, so to do anything like that at this level would be pretty amazing.”

Bryant may be well-known for his slugging, but the raw power wasn’t the only thing that got the Cubs’ attention — his 66 walks led the nation, as did his .493 on-base percentage, 62 RBIs and 80 runs.

“Everything I’ve heard from everyone has been off the charts,” Hawks manager Gary Van Tol said. “We don’t need to send him to Wrigley Field in two weeks, so we’ll take our time, but with his talent level, his experience, I personally don’t foresee him here at the end of the season.”

A bevy of higher-ups in the Cubs’ organization are on hand this weekend to observe their $6.7 million man (the bonus Bryant signed for July 10), including farm director Brandon Hyde, the team’s minor league hitting, field and infield coordinators.

They saw the Bryant most expected, and one who feels right at home at Memorial Stadium.

“The balls carry a little bit — I like that,” Bryant said.

HANNEMANN ON THE MEND: Van Tol said Jacob Hannemann, who came off the disabled list Tuesday after missing three weeks, injured his wrist making a diving catch Thursday and didn’t play Friday.

“We’re going to take it real cautious with him,” Van Tol said of the former BYU standout, hitting .290 in 14 games with Boise.

GOOD MORNING, HAWKS: The Hawks will take on Spokane at 10 a.m. Saturday, a unique twist in the schedule to make way for the Boise Music Festival, taking place at nearby Expo Idaho.

“We lost in the ninth (Thursday), then we had to respond (Friday), then get up and go Saturday, so it’ll be a nice character check for us,” Van Tol said.

Dave Southorn, 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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