Sunday, March 26, 2017 | 2 a.m.
As Kris Bryant stepped out of the shadowy dugout and onto the grass at Cashman Field Saturday morning he was flanked by a wall of cheering fans, leaning over the railing for a chance at an autograph.
On the field awaiting Bryant was an army of local media armed with cameras and microphones.
The 25-year-old Las Vegas native is the darling of the baseball world after winning the National League’s Most Valuable Player last year and helping the Chicago Cubs end their 108-year World Series drought.
He was the star of the show as he and the Chicago Cubs played the Cincinnati Reds for a spring training game in the annual Big League Weekend in Las Vegas.
Here in town, the kids at Bonanza High School knew Bryant was special far before the rest of the world.
Bonanza’s old, tattered baseball field faces Oakey Boulevard. Across the street is Firefighter’s Memorial Park, which runs along Redwood Street.
“I remember this game during his freshman year,” said Alex Murphy, a teammate of Bryant’s at Bonanza. “He hit a homerun that went over the outfield wall, over Oakey, and into a ravine at that park. It had to be probably 430 feet away. No one ever found it.”
Even as a 15-year-old, Bryant already had the effortless power that allowed him to hit 66 home runs in his first two years in Chicago.
“We all just looked at each other like, ‘Wow this guy is an animal,’” Murphy said.
Bryant hit 47 homers at Bonanza, and probably a few more in practice off of now-Yankees pitcher Chasen Shreve.
“He was always super good and we kind of knew it right away,” said, Shreve who played with Bryant for two years at Bonanza. “When I pitched against him in practice I’d sometimes forget that he was two years younger than me.”
Bonanza was loaded with talent back then. Bryant and Shreve went on to play in the big leagues and many others played college ball. Murphy pitched at Concordia University in Nebraska, Jordan Hanley played at Dixie State and Bryant’s brother in law Tomo Delp went on to play for the Maryland Terrapins.
Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper was also at Las Vegas High during the same time, and Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers was at Bishop Gorman.
“It’s really cool to see a bunch of guys made it,” Bryant said. “A lot of that success comes from growing up here. It was the best place for me to grow up and I bet that they’d say the same thing.”
Bryant still lives in Las Vegas but is rarely here during the summer. He said being here with the Cubs for this year’s Big League Weekend stirred up memories of long summer days at Bonanza with double headers and trying to find somewhere to eat with teammates in between games.
“All of the memories put a smile on my face,” Bryant said. “Every day that I’ve put into becoming what I am today was here, whether it was my batting cage in the back yard with my dad or driving the roads to school.”
Bryant joked about remembering having to change for games in the Bonanza parking lot because the team didn’t have a locker room.
“I don’t know if that’s even legal,” Bryant laughed. “In the offseason my wife and I will go to the Juice and Go and get an acai bowl and then just sit in the parking lot and just remember our experiences there. It’s the same to me as I always remember as I walk through the halls. I loved going to Bonanza.”
Now Bryant is coming off of a year where he was the highest-paid second year player in MLB history. This offseason he got married to his high school sweetheart, bought his dream home and met the president.
“I’ve always said it about Kris, back when he got drafted second overall and then when he got brought up to the big leagues, that no one deserves it more,” Shreve said. “He’s such a humble guy and the nicest dude in the word. Add to that he’s my personal friend and it was just very cool to see him do it all.”
When Bryant fielded the winning out in game seven of the World Series his humble beginnings from Bonanza High still found a way to shine through.
“I was just sitting there watching it, and it’s funny because I saw him smile as he’s fielding it,” Murphy said. “That’s something that the Kris Bryant from Bonanza would do. You could tell he’s still the same guy just out there having fun.”