Sportress of Blogitude

Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper have known each other since Vegas youth baseball

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They may be about a year apart in age, but Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper have been quite familiar with each other since their days of playing youth baseball in Las Vegas.

With the two facing off for the first time in the big leagues in a three-game set between the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field, it provided both ballplayers the chance to reminisce about those halcyon days of youth.

“He was always bigger than the competition,” Bryant recalled, according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. “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 was clearly far ahead of Bryant in development at the time and was the young phenom of the pair, obviously both realized their childhood dreams of reaching the major leagues, albeit in vastly different ways.

Both were ultimately top-five picks, although Bryant originally was drafted in the 18th round of the 2010 MLB Draft before deciding to go to college, later getting drafted by the Cubs with the second pick of the 2013 Draft.

Harper, meanwhile, was the first-overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft at the age of 17. He cracked the Nationals’ big league roster in 2012, winning NL Rookie of the Year, and now is in his fourth major league season at 22. Bryant reached the major leagues for the first time earlier this season at the age of 23. Different paths, almost the same result.

“It was only a matter of time before he got up here,” Harper said of Bryant. “Great talent, a lot of power. When we were younger, we used to call him ‘silk’ because he was so smooth with everything he did. He played third, he played short, played outfield.”

The two typically played against one another in youth ball, but were once teammates on Southern Nevada Bulldogs as teenagers.

“We won a lot of tournaments, and lot of them were because of him,” Bryant recalled.

While Harper has been the subject of intense media scrutiny since he was a child, Bryant, who witnessed it first-hand in Vegas, experienced similar coverage earlier this season when the Cubs sent him down to the minors.

“I dealt with it, but he was getting media attention when he was 12,” Bryant said. “It’s got to be tough to handle, but I have an appreciation for how he’s handled it.

“Anytime you get that type of coverage, people expect a lot. He was an awesome player and did a great job with an unconventional path, but it worked out.”