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Bryant eager to catch up with boyhood rival Harper

Cubs rookie, Nats star played with and against each other in Vegas

PHOENIX -- They played against each other and were teammates, starting when the pair were about 8 years old growing up in Las Vegas. On Monday, the Cubs' Kris Bryant and the Nationals' Bryce Harper will compete against each other at Wrigley Field in the first game of a three-game series.

"The thing that stands out to me is just how good he was and how much better he was than the competition," Bryant said Sunday of Harper, who starred at Las Vegas High School. "He was 11 years old and throwing 80 miles an hour off the mound. It was special to see that from a guy that young. He's obviously younger than I am, but watching him play, I was amazed. I knew he'd be doing what he's doing at this level someday."

Harper, 22, isn't that much younger than Bryant, 23, but did choose to get to the big leagues a little quicker. Harper was the first pick overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft; Bryant, who went to Bonanza High School in Vegas, opted to go to the University of San Diego and played three seasons there before being the second player taken overall in the 2013 Draft.

"I couldn't have done it," Bryant said about going from high school to the pros. "Obviously, for me, education was important. I had a plan in high school and what I wanted to do. We both took different paths and we're kind of in the same spot now. His is definitely an interesting story and I'm glad it worked out for him."

Bryant couldn't remember how his high school did against Harper, head to head, and planned to ask the Nationals' outfielder at some point in the three-game series. The two schools weren't that close to each other and Bryant described their games as "friendly competition" more than a rivalry.

"It was pretty fun watching him play growing up," Bryant said of Harper.

Harper showed his support of Bryant during Spring Training when the Cubs third baseman was leading the Major Leagues in home runs. On March 14, Harper posted on Twitter: "If @KrisBryant_23 doesn't make the big league team out of camp, then that's a joke! I see you doin your thing brotha! #VegasMade #TheTruth"

Said Bryant on Sunday: "I did see that -- thanks for the support, Bryce."

Harper is much more extroverted than Bryant if you compare bat flips.

"He knew he was good and I think that's a good trait to have," Bryant said. "You want to go out there confident and he was confident. I think that helped him get to where he is today. He doesn't care who's on the mound or who the other team is. He's always going to go out there and believe he's better than the opponent and that's something you need."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has not seen Harper play much in person but does know the young outfielder has his critics.

"I don't know what everybody else doesn't like [about him]," Maddon said. "I like players who play hard and care, and obviously, he's pretty good, so I probably would like him."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.
Read More: Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant