Kris Bryant, YouTube Sensation

Kris Bryant is sick.

Not in the scary way, though. No, I’m talking about his talent. You see, sick is a good thing, at least in the parlance of Gen-X’ers like myself trying to sound like one of my millennial counterparts. Soon after his much-discussed promotion, Bryant infected the Cubs faithful with the kind of gleeful hysteria not experienced since the early 1980’s. Having successfully taken over Chicago, Bryant’s now got his sites set on the world at large.

The delivery vehicle: viral videos. First there was the Red Bull ad of Farmer Kris and his pet goat getting the call up from the farm. Then there was the Lyft ad in which KB punked unsuspecting riders. I was skeptical about the veracity of that latter bit, mainly because I wondered how the rookie third baseman could go unnoticed. Then again, I guess it’s a hidden-in-plain-sight deal in that people don’t see what they’re not looking for.

That was certainly the case in Red Bull’s newest promo video, which featured the Rookie of the Year taking BP with the team at Mesa Community College under the premise that he was a transfer student. Head coach Tony Cirelli was in on the prank, setting up Bryant’s appearance by explaining that he was a “late in-season arrival from Europe due to visa problems.” Cirelli also told his players that the new guy was going to be in the lineup right away and to be prepared for things to change.

“He’s a big donkey, he’s got crazy power,” the coach described. “He can help us. Guys who are pitching are going to lose some innings. Guys who are hitting are going to lose at-bats. If he gets us to Oklahoma [for the College World Series] and we win another ring, no one’s going to be complaining.”

I love that he called Bryant “a big donkey” because it’s hilarious and you know that’s just part of the coach’s nomenclature.

Red Bull went to lengths to set the prank up and keep the MCC players from believing anything was amiss. Their camera crew had been there all week under the auspices of putting together a feature on the team and then they had Bryant come out to the field in full practice gear about 20 minutes into the session when players were spread out all over the field. Oh, they also gave the All-Star an alias: Roy Nabryt — first name is Rookie of the Year and last name is an anagram for Bryant. It’s also what Harry Caray might have called the phenom.

You had to figure some of the kids were wise to the ruse early on, but it’s awesome to see the various reactions when Bryant jumps into the cage and just starts blasting away. The sound his bat made stopped guys in their tracks and had them staring in awe as the baseballs traced parabolic arcs through the dry air.

That’s when you start seeing the nudges and whispers of “That’s Kris Bryant” as realization spread through the team. His identity revealed, Bryant stuck around to sign autographs and pass out energy drinks, flashing that multi-million-dollar smile the whole time.

Not satisfied with merely dominating the college field again, Bryant joined the Dude Perfect crew to help out with their softball stereotypes bit. For those of you not familiar with DP, they’re a group of buddies who gained internet fame for putting together trick basketball shot videos. They’ve since expanded their empire to include football, baseball, frisbee, archery, bowling, you name it. My son loves these clips and we’ve spent quite a bit of time perusing them, so seeing that KB was involved had me pretty stoked.

On the whole, the effort is a little on the corny side, but there’s enough truth at the heart of the various stereotypes to make the co-ed beer-leaguer in me smile. I mean, they forgot Kyle Schwarber Lookalike with Thousands of Dollars in Bats Trolling the Fields for an Extra Game Guy, but some of the others were pretty spot on. Bryant’s involvement is limited to a brief cameo, but he pulled off Borderline Illegal, Semi Frowned Upon, Last Minute Call to Your Buddy Who May or May Not be on an MLB Roster Guy with aplomb.

I think my favorite part is when Bryant asks who they’re playing and Ty names the Cheese Weasels and Buster McThundersticks. If you’ve ever played in a softball league, you know these are entirely plausible team names. Well, other than the decided lack of sexual innuendo, that is.

Bryant has the potential to be a bona fide megastar, the kind of player who will be the face of not just his team, but of multiple ad campaigns as well. Adidas wasted no time slapping him on billboards and outfitting him with crazy All-Star Game gear, and we’ve also seen him showing that Red Bull gives you (s)wings. Time will tell, but I think we could see an impact similar to the one Ryne Sandberg had 30 years ago. Perhaps even bigger since it’s far easier to convince your spouse to name your child Kris, what with the name’s familiarity and gender neutrality and all.

There’s really nothing of significance to pull from these videos when it comes to Kris Bryant the baseball player, though I draw no small measure of joy from watching them with my son. I had mentioned that he likes Dude Perfect, so seeing his face light up when he heard that Kris Bryant was in one of their videos was a great moment. I named my little boy Ryne because of a bond I felt with my favorite team and my favorite player, so to see similar affections blooming in him has me feeling all kinds of awesome.

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