While most kindergartners spend their time learning to color between the lines, Boise third baseman Kris Bryant was honing a different skill -- hitting line drives.
Bryant, selected by the Chicago Cubs as the No. 2 overall pick in this year's Draft, has been working his whole life for a chance to play professional baseball. Whether it was time spent in a backyard batting cage that his father built, or excruciating workouts with his high school and college teammates, he's always stayed focused on his one ultimate goal.
Now, he's living it.
"You have to have a positive mind-set, because this game can really beat you up," Bryant said. "I feel really blessed that I'm able to play this game professionally."
In 2010 he was selected by the Blue Jays but did not sign. Instead, he attended the University of San Diego, where he fine-tuned his skills and was eventually named Baseball America's 2013 College Player of the Year. Bryant attributed that success, as well as his high Draft stock, to the tireless hours he spent perfecting his game.
Now, even with the everyday grind of baseball setting in, Bryant has started to heat up. The Las Vegas native is hitting .371 with three home runs and nine RBIs in his last 10 games. Having only played 14 thus far in a Boise uniform, it's clear to see that it has not taken him much time to get acclimated.
It's not a change that's been easy, but it is one that he feels well prepared for.
"I definitely feel a little adjustment playing every day -- it's something I still need to get used to -- but I'm having a blast," Bryant said. "My first couple weeks of professional baseball have really exceeded my expectations."
To say all of his preparation has been all work is a bit of an overstatement, but only because the 21-year-old has certainly had a lot of fun with it over the years. He knows keeping the game loose and fun is a critical element to progressing through the ranks, and that isn't any different than how he has ever treated the game.
"Some guys, they like to hope for a rainout or something, for an off-day," Bryant said. "My mind-set is just to go out there and have fun, do the best I can on the field, and good things will come my way."
Bryant has dealt with high expectations for a while, but with every new venture comes a set of nerves. Although he's doing his best to block out any of the pressure, he also understands the investment his parent organization has made in him, and how passionate Cubs fans can truly be.
"I think I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel any pressure, but I think we all feel pressure as professional baseball players to go out there and compete at a very high level," he said. "Going to college and growing up helped me not focus on that as much, and I come from a good background that has helped me handle that type of pressure."
That pressure can run its course on young athletes. Bryant, though, remains focused on those attributes that will one day allow him to step up to the plate at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
"The main thing for me to focus on is just staying positive," Bryant said. "If I have the right mind-set, going out there every day wanting to play and having a smile on my face, I really think the sky is the limit."
Who's hot/who's not: Eugene Emeralds OF Hunter Renfroe has amassed 10 RBIs in his last nine games. … Salem-Keizer OF Tyler Hollick has recorded just five hits in his last 26 at-bats, and just one RBI over that span. … Spokane RHP Kelvin Vasquez has recorded 12 strikeouts and allowed just one earned run in his last 10 2/3 innings pitched. … Vancouver LHP Shane Dawson has not allowed an earned run and struck out 15 batters in nine innings since joining the team from Bluefield. … Everett RHP Thyago Vieira has allowed eight earned runs in his last nine innings.
All-Stars shine: The league's first All-Star game since 2004 was a roaring success as the South Division rallied in the ninth inning to win, 8-7. Salem-Keizer INF Sam Eberle was 2-for-4 with three runs scored and one RBI for the South and was voted the MiLB.com Top Star of the game. Vancouver INF L.B. Dantzler went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBIs for the North. Game-worn All-Star jerseys are available for auction on MiLB.com until Aug. 14.
He said it: "This is one of the most exciting things [in my baseball career]. I was nervous out there." Tri-City OF Sean Dwyer to the Everett Herald regarding his Home Run Derby title. Dwyer needed just two homers in the final round to win.
Mascot champion: Hillsboro Hops mascot Barley won the Northwest League Mascot Mania vote but came up short in the championship round. The Columbus Clippers' LouSeal of the Triple-A International League took home this year's crown.