SAN DIEGO -- Three months later, Cubs third baseman Kristopher Bryant is still laughing about it. On a University of Nevada field in February, Bryant took batting practice against Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. But he didn't know it was Maddux.Maddux pranked the reigning National League MVP, posing as a
SAN DIEGO -- Three months later, Cubs third baseman Kristopher Bryant is still laughing about it. On a University of Nevada field in February, Bryant took batting practice against Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. But he didn't know it was Maddux.
Maddux pranked the reigning National League MVP, posing as a video sound guy. Maddux wore a fake beard, a padded jacket to give him extra weight and a cap pulled down low to his eyes.
"It was good," Bryant said with a giggle this week as the Cubs played the Padres at Petco Park, only miles from where the right-handed power hitter did his collegiate damage playing for the University of San Diego.
The video is must see and runs 4 minutes, 33 seconds. It's had 5.5 million views.
"I had met him one time before that," Bryant said. "It was during the World Series so I really didn't know what he looked like. I didn't pay attention too much. He obviously looks different than when he was playing. So, I had no suspicion of it. He did a really good job. They caught me big by surprise."
Bryant was College Player of the Year in 2013, hitting 31 homers playing on the hilltop north of Mission Valley. He's such a smart kid, he turned down a nomination for a Rhodes Scholarship after his sophomore year because his goal was to play Major League Baseball. The Cubs picked him second overall in the 2013 Draft.
Since then, he's gone on to win the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award, last year's MVP and the Hank Aaron Award, in addition to the World Series with the Cubs, who were victorious this past November for the first time in 108 years. He's only 25.
Maddux basically ended his 23-year, 355-win career playing for the Padres in 2007-08 with a final two-month stop with the Dodgers. He was 14-11 on the 2007 Padres team that lost a tiebreaker game to the Rockies, the last time the Padres came close to the postseason.
Like Bryant, Maddux and his older brother, Mike, grew up in Las Vegas. Mike also pitched for the Padres and is a much-heralded, longtime pitching coach now working under Nationals manager Dusty Baker.
Both Maddux brothers were known pranksters during their playing days.
"I was very fortunate to have a brother that I could learn from," Greg Maddux quipped in his 2014 Hall of Fame induction speech. "He even taught me a little bit about science. It has to do with a little methane and a lighter, and I still get a huge kick out of it today. That's funny, huh. OK."
Bryant is a big prankster, too. During Spring Training in 2016, he was brought in as a ringer with the baseball team at Mesa (Ariz.) College in the Phoenix area. The coach said a new recruit from Europe was coming to town and was going to take positions away from the current players.
"I dressed up and fooled them," Bryant said. "They caught on to it at the end, though. After watching me take BP, they figured out that I was definitely not a transfer."
But Maddux outdid himself with Bryant. The opening frames of the video show Maddux as he dresses in costume. Bryant is none the wiser as he opens the proceedings.
"Vegas is a pretty good baseball town," he said. "So many people have come from here: Bryce Harper, Chasen Shreve and Greg Maddux went to high school here, too. He's a guy I look up to now."
Bryant has no idea that Maddux is standing right next him, chirping during the shoot about possible audio problems.
"I'm getting hungry. I'm just trying to get out of here," Maddux said.
With that, batting practice commences and the pitcher takes a call while he's tossing from behind a screen in front of the mound.
"I got to go run study hall," he said.
The setup is complete. Maddux steps in.
"I can throw. I threw to kids all the time, dude. To my Little League team back in the day," he said.
Bryant laughs. Maddux throws a pitch. Bryant: "He's all right, we'll see. Just don't hit me. It's not bad actually."
It then becomes apparent Maddux, at 51, can still pitch. He was a second-round pick of the Cubs in the 1984 Draft, after all.
"This sound guy has a good curveball, what is this?" Bryant says. "He might be better than the other guy. Really. I seriously doubted you."
This week Bryant added this aside: "I've seen BP curves before, but none have been that good. Obviously, he's a four-time [NL] Cy Young Award winner so his curveball is going to look good. And they were strikes every time. Right there."
At that point, he could barely touch Maddux. "I need to take this seriously," Bryant said. "I need to hit the ball over the fence." Down to the last pitch, Bryant has just hit one into the batting-practice screen. Maddux asks, "Hey, do you think I can get that bat?" Bryant responds, "Maybe." He finally hits the last one out and it rattles off the light stanchion.
"That was great," Bryant says. Maddux asks: "Can you sign the bat to me? Would you sign that to Greg Maddux?"
At that point, Bryant realizes the gig is up and starts laughing. "See, see, I told you. Oh my gosh I even mentioned you. OK, I'm completely surprised. You guys got me. I was doing the pranking last year and I got pranked this year. By a Hall of Famer. Greg Maddux. Do you still want my bat?"
Bryant: "Oh, man."
Bryant subsequently sent the bat to Maddux, he said.
"It was one of the more fun things I've ever done on the field," Bryant said. "It was a lot of fun."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.