No cheap seats anymore for Cubs rookie slugger Bryant

SAN DIEGO (AP) Two years ago, Kris Bryant would sit in the nosebleed seats on College Night at Petco Park.

On Tuesday night, he was back at the big downtown ballyard, playing third base and batting second for the Chicago Cubs.

''It's come full circle. It's really surreal,'' Bryant said while sitting in the dugout two hours before the first pitch. ''I used to sit up there in the upper deck in right field for $5, the cheap seats, and now I get to play and get to step into the box against James Shields.''

Bryant starred at the University of San Diego before the Cubs took him with the No. 2 pick in the 2013 amateur draft. His 31 homers as a junior that year were the most in a Division I season since toned-down composite bats replaced aluminum bats in 2011.

Bryant made his big league debut on April 17 when the Cubs hosted Shields and the Padres, going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Going into Tuesday night, the prized rookie was riding a seven-game hitting streak and batting .291 with four homers and 24 RBIs.

''It's been fun. And we've been playing really good, too. It's been more than expected. I can't say enough about the way I've been treated by my teammates and coaches,'' he said.

There was a big contingent from USD at the game, including coach Rich Hill.

''It's awesome. I love those guys. They were a big part of my success. I wouldn't be sitting here if it wasn't for them,'' Bryant said. ''The three years at USD were the best three years of my life and I owe a lot of credit to them, so I'm glad they made it out here.''

One of the games Bryant remembers attending was the one when Carlos Quentin rushed the mound and slammed into Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke after he got hit by a pitch.

''I usually don't go to games to see someone charge the mound, but we were here when Carlos Quentin did that,'' Bryant said. ''It was crazy. All the fans got into it, and I was actually one of those fans.''

Monday was an off day, which Bryant spent ''cruising at the beach. I didn't get the chance to do that. I was either in school or playing baseball,'' he said.

He also stopped by his favorite Mexican restaurant near the USD campus for a Cali burrito.

His parents, Mike and Sue, drove down from Las Vegas and will be at all three games, just like they were at almost every one of his home games in college.

Mike Bryant taught Kris to hit at a young age, passing along the lessons he learned from Ted Williams during the two spring trainings he was a Boston Red Sox farmhand in the early 1980s.

''I feel like I made it,'' said Mike Bryant, who was wearing a No. 17 Bryant jersey. ''We still talk, when he struggles, and he formulates his approach. We put our heads together. I don't tell him exactly what to do, I just stimulate the thought process, and how the guys are trying to get him out. He still has to figure it out.''

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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