Brian Murphy: Catch Kris Bryant while you still can in Boise

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comAugust 11, 2013 

Boise hawks, memorial stadium, kris bryant

Boise Hawks third baseman Kris Bryant, a first round draft pick by the Chicago Cubs, played his first game in Boise against the Spokane Indians on Friday, July 26, 2013 at Memorial Stadium in Boise. Bryant was promoted to the Cubs' advanced A team in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 12.



    The only real weakness in Carlos Penalver's game has been his bat.

    The Boise Hawks shortstop and No. 9 hitter is improving as the season progresses, and he broke out in a big way Saturday at Memorial Stadium to lead the hosts to a 9-2 rout of the Vancouver Canadians.

    Penalver went 3-for-4 for the Hawks (30-23), starting with a grand slam off Kyle Anderson with nobody out to spark a five-run second inning. He also scored two runs and improved his batting average to .239. Kevin Encarnacion, Lance Rymel, Rony Rodriguez and Trevor Gretzky had two hits and an RBI apiece. Dillon Maples (4-0) went five innings for the win, and Corbin Hoffner tossed four for his first save.

    The teams will play a day-night doubleheader Sunday to complete their five-game series. The first game starts at noon, and the second at 7:15 p.m.

    — Statesman staff

Each day brings Kris Bryant closer to the dream he’s held since he was 5.

That’s when his dad, a former minor-leaguer, installed a batting cage in the backyard of their Las Vegas home and threw his son the first of perhaps a million pitches.

Each day brings Bryant, the No. 2 overall pick in June’s draft by the Chicago Cubs, closer to the major leagues.

“The goal is to get there and stay there,” Bryant said.

And that means Boise is just a pit stop, one that is very nearly over for Bryant. If you want to see the slugging third baseman — a good bet to finally end the Cubs’ misery at the hot corner — you’d better hurry to Memorial Stadium.

Like today. Seriously.

Sunday’s doubleheader might be the last time Bryant dons the Hawks’ City of Trees green, deep brick red, sunshine orange and muted yellow cornsilk. Yes, those are the official names for the Hawks’ colors.

Bryant, who went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in his Hawks debut, is now batting .310 with four home runs in 16 games. He went 1-for-4 with a double in the Hawks' 9-2 victory on Saturday night against Vancouver, extending his hit streak to 13 games. Bryant had a game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night.

The Hawks’ coaching staff has worked on his defense, but left his swing alone. The next step or destination, he insists, is not something he thinks about.

“That’s not my job. My job is to play baseball,” Bryant said. “The guys in charge will take care of that.”

The guys in charge want Bryant to get at least a taste of better competition this year. He was, after all, the college player of the year at San Diego, where he slugged an NCAA-best 31 home runs.

At 21, Bryant — the No. 4 prospect in the Cubs’ system, according to the team’s website — is six months older than Baltimore Orioles All-Star Manny Machado and nine months older than Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper.

“They’re the top percentile,” said Bryant, a finance major at San Diego.

There is no pressure on Bryant to match those players. But as a polished college player, the expectation is that he can move through the system. Bryant is expected to go to advanced Class A Daytona Beach, skipping over Kane County.

“The sky’s the limit,” Hawks manager Gary Van Tol said. “There’s no rush and no pressure that we’re putting on him other than to get some playing time and get the reps and get the at-bats.”

The pressure of those lofty expectations, of the $6.7 million signing bonus, of being a part of the club that finally ends the Cubs’ comically long World Series drought, none of it weighs on Bryant.

He looks like he’s having the time of his life, doing exactly what he wants and loving every minute of it.

“Baseball’s a kid’s game. It’s baseball. You’re supposed to have fun,” said Bryant, who in his short time in Boise has ridden go-karts and played mini-golf. “... We get to play baseball every day. That’s a goal of mine. I want to play baseball every day for the rest of my life.”

Soon he’ll be doing it in a different home ballpark and wearing a different uniform. Maybe some day, likely sooner than later, the ballpark will be Wrigley Field and the uniform will have a red C inside a blue circle — see, there’s nothing wrong with basic color names — and the opponents will include Machado and Harper.

Boise will be a memory, a place where he started his career, where he hit his first homer. Catch a glimpse soon, because Kris Bryant’s time in Boise is just about done.

Penalver belts grand slam in Hawks' rout

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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