Kris Bryant has MLB’s highest selling jersey
Noah Hilton | Contributor
A few years back, a kid from Las Vegas, NV made the cover of Sports Illustrated. An accompanying article touted the then 16-year-old as baseball’s chosen one, capable of saving whichever franchise was lucky enough to draft him.
There’s no doubt that the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper, the soon-to-be-crowned MVP of the National League, has managed to live up to the high expectations bestowed on him by the nation’s leading sportswriters. However, is it possible that, even given Harper’s success, they picked the wrong kid from Vegas?
While Harper made headlines by dropping out of high school and playing a season of junior college ball, an unprecedented move at the time, so as to comply with MLB draft rules and enter the league as soon as possible. It was another superstar from the desert who took a far more traditional route to the majors. Enter University of San Diego’s own Kris Bryant.
In just his first season in the major leagues, a season that is sure to win him Rookie of the Year honors, Bryant rode the strength of a 26-homer, 99-RBI campaign to the top of baseball’s pop charts. As announced by MLB this past week, his #17 Chicago Cubs jersey was the best selling jersey in the league in 2015. He outpaced not only fellow rookies such as Carlos Correa and Noah Syndergaard, but also undisputed stars such as Andrew McCutchen, 2014 World series hero Madison Bumgarner, and the royalty of today’s game, Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout.
Ramon Orozco, assistant coach at USD for the last eight seasons, is a bit awestruck by Bryant’s rise to the top.
“It is pretty cool that his jersey was the number one seller,” Orozco said. “I went to see him about two weeks ago in Chicago. Coming from seeing him as a freshman and sophomore and being just a student at college here, it was absolutely crazy seeing his name everywhere. I mean it was everywhere in the city, all over. It was a little strange but it was pretty awesome. I would be walking around and then here are all these people wearing his name on a jersey.”
Kris Bryant’s eye-popping rookie season was really just another step on his meteoric rise to baseball stardom. The fan favorite first grabbed hold of the spotlight during his freshman year as a Torero, a season in which he batted .365 and was named the Co-WCC Player of the Year. However, the offensive explosion of Bryant’s 2013 season truly put him on the map. As a junior, he was the recipient of the Golden Spikes Award for best college player in the nation. During that incredible season he blasted 31 home runs, a total that placed him ahead of more than 75 percent of Division 1 teams.
Bryant was selected second overall by the Cubs in the 2013 draft, and was not fazed in the slightest by the jump in competition between the college game and the pros. In his first full season as a professional, Bryant led the minor leagues with 43 home runs, earning an almost-unanimous distinction as baseball’s best prospect. He not only won the Minor League Player of the Year Award, but also earned an invitation to spring training in 2015.
This spring, Bryant did his best Babe Ruth impression, hitting nine more home runs in limited action in what would serve as an outstanding precursor to his success in the majors. He continued to excite fans with tape measure long balls, including one shot off Wrigley Field’s scoreboard that was the longest of any hit this season. Once games actually counted, Bryant also played excellent defense for a Cubs team that won 97 games and has a legitimate chance at the franchise’s first championship since 1908. Even if they fall short this October, Bryant is certain to be at the center of a decade of Cubs dominance that is only just beginning.
Orozco is definitely proud of his former player, and admires the way he’s remained grounded despite enormous fame and fortune.
“I am definitely proud of him and his accomplishments and glad I got to be his coach,” Orozco said. “When I went to visit him, I brought my little son with me and he was just loving it. He loves Bryant. When he was back there with the guys Bryant said to him ‘Hey buddy come here, I’ll sign your jersey for you’ and then [Anthony] Rizzo and [Addison] Russell came over and signed it too. The day after my son was wearing his jersey to school like he was the the coolest kid ever.”
Baseball’s chosen one? All due respect to the aforementioned Harper, but it would appear that the best young player in the majors today actually hails from a small Catholic school in San Diego with a beautiful view of Mission Bay. A player whose college career with the Toreros ended in 2013, and two years later whose jersey is selling at a higher clip than every single one of his opponents.