OMAHA—Right before the players took the dais for Sunday's pre-College World Series Finals press conference, UCLA shortstop Niko Gallego bumped into South Carolina center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
"I told Jackie over there in the corner he's my favorite player to watch," Gallego said.
That's become a pretty popular sentiment here in Omaha. I developed a similar opinion the first time I ever saw Bradley play, during a South Carolina-Louisiana State series in Columbia in 2009.
The "fun to watch" discussion reminded me of something Georgia coach David Perno said about Gordon Beckham in 2008, when we named the Bulldogs' shorstop our Midseason Player of the Year.
"He wants to be fun to watch play," Perno said of Beckham then. "There were too many times last year where he would bring it back onto the field or take his defense with him to the plate. I told him, 'Hey, just be fun to watch.' "
Bradley said he has a similar mentality.
"I play kind of loose," Bradley said. "Sometimes I guess it gets interpreted as nonchalant a little bit. But that's just the way I play. I feel comfortable in between the lines, when I'm on defense—I feel like I'm at my best playing great defense. I think that's my best asset, playing defense. Being able to hit is just extra. I just want to be fun to watch as well, just like Gordon Beckham."
I asked Bradley who has been his favorite player to watch in Omaha. His answer: Texas Christian catcher Bryan Holaday.
"My favorite player to watch is the catcher for TCU," Bradley said. "He has a lot of energy. He is the epitome of a leader, and his teammates feed off of his energy. I'm proud of what they've done, and I'm pretty sure all of TCU nation is proud of how they played."
Incidentally, Bradley and Holaday are the unofficial co-captains of the 2010 All-Fitt team—composed of my favorite players to watch and/or interview this season. The complete team:
C: Bryan Holaday, Texas Christian
1B: Matt Curry, Texas Christian
2B: Keith Werman, Virginia
3B: Anthony Rendon, Rice
SS: Christian Colon, Cal State Fullerton
OF: Jackie Bradley Jr., South Carolina
OF: Taylor Dugas, Alabama
OF: Rico Noel, Coastal Carolina
DH: Phil Wunderlich, Louisville
UT: Mike McGee, Florida State
SP: Kyle Blair, San Diego
SP: Trevor Bauer, UCLA
SP: Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt
SP: Drew Pomeranz, Mississippi
RP: Chance Ruffin, Texas
I had a hard time omitting Virginia's Steven Proscia and Connecticut's Mike Olt, but competition was thick at the hot corner. Other honorable mentions: St. John's Jeremy Baltz, UC Irvine's Daniel Bibona, Florida Gulf Coast's Chris Sale, TCU's Matt Purke, South Carolina's Matt Price, North Carolina's Matt Harvey, Minnesota's Mike Kvasnicka,UCLA's Gerrit Cole and Arizona State's Zack MacPhee.
Thanks to all of those players—and countless others—for making college baseball fun to cover.
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