SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s draft day, the opening minutes of round one. Clock is ticking on the fifth pick. Cole Stechnij, lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs, is about to make the selection that everyone in the room knows he’ll make.
“Kris Bryant,” he says firmly, with zero hesitation. “And it’s absolutely not a reach — and let me tell you why it’s not a reach…”
Cole prepares to launch his usual lecture on the unassailable greatness of Bryant, a player he never fails to draft. This man’s Cubs fandom is not some casual thing; his fidelity to KB is beyond question. Cole and his wife have a 4-month-old son named “Bryant,” after the Cubs third baseman.
Standing just behind Cole, the actual Kris Bryant is observing this fantasy draft, heckling picks. When Bryant hears his name, he steps forward and places a can of Red Bull directly in Cole’s hand. The can features an image of Bryant. No stunned reaction from Cole — no shriek of excitement, no spit-take.
Kris Bryant himself has just witnessed the drafting of Kris Bryant by earth’s biggest Kris Bryant fan, and everyone is chill.
“I mean, the hair and mustache made it hard to figure out,” Cole would later say.
It’s not as if Bryant was dressed in full Cubs uniform, easily recognized, lurking at some random fantasy draft. He was instead pushing a cart of pizzas, wearing a “Kristio’s” hat and shirt. KB’s hair and ‘stache captured the Bruce Sutter aesthetic perfectly, but he looked very little like the 2016 National League MVP. Bryant was posing as the proprietor of a fictitious local establishment, “Kristio’s Pizza & Wings,” crashing three unsuspecting Yahoo fantasy baseball drafts.
Red Bull has orchestrated elaborate pranks in the past involving Bryant, either as a conspirator or victim. It’s a spring tradition, basically. You might recall KB pretending to be a transfer student at Mesa Community College back in 2016, or Greg Maddux, dressed ridiculously, tormenting Bryant with a BP session last offseason.
This year, Bryant went undercover to surprise fantasy owners. Three separate leagues failed to immediately recognize that the 6-foot-5 delivery guy in their hotel suites was, in fact, a consensus first round fantasy pick. Bryant of course played his role like a seasoned character actor. He quietly arranged pizzas for a minute or two, then inserted himself in each room’s ongoing conversation. Not every draft exhibited the same powers of perception — one crew didn’t recognize Bryant until the wig came off. But Cole’s group caught on fairly quickly, then mobbed KB.
“A couple guys started getting wide-eyed,” said Cole. “I still had no clue. But I was looking at my friend Nate, and back at Kris. And back at Nate. And he gave me a look like … yeaaaah, that’s not a pizza guy.”
Nope, definitely not. Hands shaking, Cole found his phone and showed Bryant pictures of his namesake. Player and fantasy owner shared a moment.
“My wife asked me later if this was better than our wedding day,” said Cole. “I didn’t want to insult her. But I said those days are a pretty solid one-two.”
If you’re a fan of Bryant, the Cubs, fantasy baseball or gullible people, you should really watch the full Red Bull video above. Get details on the limited edition Red Bull Kris Bryant can right here.
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