01/16/2016 6:44 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – January 16, 2016 – A one-game sample size was all Joe Bryant needed to recognize that Northwest Indiana is a good place to play collegiate summer baseball.
A month after graduating from Munster High School, Bryant was a late-season add to the Northwest Indiana Oilmen roster. He made his debut on July 21 against Southland, but left after two plate appearances with a tweaked groin. He did not return for the remainder of the season.
Bryant went 0-for-2 in that initial game, and easily could have joined Brandon Barnes and Matt O’Connor as the only two players in Oilmen history to appear in just one game. However, the South Suburban (JUCO) freshman will have a chance at redemption when he returns to the Oilmen for 2016.
“I didn’t make the greatest first impression, getting injured that first game,” Bryant said. “It seemed really fun, so I decided I’d like to continue it this year. They’re one of the best team teams around here, and it’s really nice to be local.”
The fall season brought a major transition for Bryant, as he navigated a position switch while also adjusting to facing college pitching. After playing exclusively outfield during his all-state tenure at Munster, Bryant was moved to first base.
“Everything is completely different,” Bryant said. “You don’t have to run as much. You have to be involved in every ball on the infield. It’s a lot more work. People don’t think being a first baseman is hard, but it really is a hard position.”
Bryant batted .480 with three home runs and 29 RBIs as a senior for the Mustangs. He hopes to carry that success to South Suburban, where he is expected to bat fourth or fifth.
“He’s got a lot of natural power,” South Suburban coach Steve Ruzich said. “He’s a great fastball hitter. When he can go the other way, he’s as good as there is. He surprised me defensively at first base. He came in here as an outfielder, and we were struggling at first, so we put him there.”
Bryant, a business law major, is satisfied with his decision to select South Suburban. Soon enough, another college search will commence as he pursues the goal of finishing his collegiate career at a Division-I school.
Bryant joins Tyler Sroczynski, Richard Yelnick and Hunter Clark as players who will return for their second seasons with the Oilmen in 2015.
Bryant, an avid video gamer, has been ranked as high as second in the nation in Call of Duty: Ghosts.
“He said he played for like 12 straight hours,” Ruzich said. “I said he should probably get back in that and make thousands and thousands of dollars.”
Now, Bryant has turned his gaming attention to the newest Call of Duty game, Black Ops 3. He reached as high as top 30 in the world on the leaderboards, but he recently stopped playing because it is hard to balance video games with baseball and class.
“I would say it’s the hand-eye coordination from baseball to video games,” Bryant said when asked what makes him so good. “Both of them have a lot of fast-moving parts. The two together help me with video games and baseball, as weird as that sounds.”