By Michael O’Hearn – [email protected] – Staff Writer | April 15, 2015 |
Athletically, Hunter Bryant, senior marketing student, is halfway through his fourth and final season as a baseball player at UNC Asheville. Academically, Bryant is gearing up for graduation in May.
Bryant, who has been playing the game since he was young, said the sport is a family favorite and that is what drew him to baseball.
The senior plays both infielder and first baseman positions on the diamond for the UNCA Bulldogs.
“I’ve been playing since I was three. My dad loves the game and my whole family plays,” Bryant said. “I love it. It’s something I can’t get rid of.”
Bryant, 21, graduated Erwin High School in 2011. When he wasn’t swinging a baseball bat in the spring, he was dribbling a basketball in the fall for all four years of his high school career.
“My dad’s a big basketball guy,” Bryant said. “He was Eddie Biedenbach’s assistant when he was here from 1996 to 2001, but he also loved the game of baseball. I’ve been playing both since I was young and I stuck with baseball and it’s become my passion.”
UNCA recruited Bryant for the baseball team as a senior in high school and, according to Bryant, the university proved to be an appealing option for him.
“It’s a recruiting process they have here and they contacted me when I was still at Erwin. It was a good fit and they offered me some good things with a scholarship and stuff like that,” Bryant said. “I’m close to home here. I’m from Leicester so it’s only 20 minutes away.”
According to Jonathan Johnston, the assistant baseball coach and recruiting coordinator for UNCA, Bryant had a spark within him that would prove valuable to the team.
“Hunter is a competitor,” Johnston said. “From the moment I met him, I could sense the hunger he has to improve. He has had his share of adversity, but he has faced each challenge head on.”
Bryant’s coach, Scott Friedholm, said that he is a great individual both on and off the field.
“He is a great person with an outstanding work ethic,” Friedholm said. “He is also a reliable player and teammate. We know what we are getting from Hunter everyday and he’s consistent. That’s all a coach could ask for.”
Bryant said he hopes to play professionally and mentioned that he already has some Major League Baseball teams contacting him. Overall, the Atlanta Braves are Bryant’s favorite team.
“If I’m lucky enough to get the chance to play pro ball, I would love to do it,” Bryant said. “There are a couple of teams that have kept in contact with me and have been watching like the Cubs, Yankees, Braves and Rockies.”
According to Johnston, Bryant’s abilities on the field make him proud as a coach.
“I am most proud of his growth as a leader,” Johnston said. “As a coach, the greatest reward is to see a player grow as a person and understand the challenges of leadership. The skills Hunter is developing now transcend the game and will be keys to success in his life. I look forward to seeing his continued growth.”
Bryant said his proudest moment came to him when he received entry into the Perfect Game Summer Collegiate All-American Honorable Mention team in 2014. Bryant played with the Forest City Owls of the Coastal Plain League.
“Every summer you go out to different schools and play with different guys from different teams,” Bryant said. “It’s probably my biggest accomplishment and I’m pretty proud of that.”
Bryant was named one of the top nine hitters in the Coastal Plain League and had 38 RBIs, the second in the circuit, while playing for the Forest City Owls last summer, according to athletics department officials.
“He has continued to improve as the season has progressed,” Johnston said. “He is a very smart, high aptitude player. His ability to understand, apply and communicate our offensive system has helped him as an individual but more importantly as an integral part of the team.”
Bryant takes the time to enjoy the simpler things in life when he’s not protecting first base or batting for the Bulldogs.
“I’m a simple guy, overall,” Bryant said. “I go fishing and I listen to country music. Simple as that.”
Bryant said he turns to rap music or the music from the press box to get himself ready to walk out on the diamond whether at home or on the road.
“If it’s a home game, I just tend to let the music from the press box get into me,” Bryant said. “I think you need to be internally motivated to do this, though. On the road games, I’ll listen to some heavier music like Lil Wayne and Drake.”
According to Bryant, he will have fond memories of UNCA both in the classroom and on the diamond as he walks to get his diploma in May.
“A liberal arts education is not something you can put a price on,” Bryant said. “I’ve learned a whole lot here and it’s been a great experience. It’s made me who I am and I’m appreciative of it, for sure.”