Where Are They Now?: John Bryant

Image credit: John Bryant, the star of the 1984 College World Series, never panned out in pro ball, but he has made a huge impact on the lives of students he has taught at his Anaheim high school.

Bob Caffrey led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a line-drive single against Greg Swindell. The 1984 College World Series championship game was tied at one run apiece when Cal State Fullerton outfielder John Bryant stepped to the plate at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Auggie Garrido, whose Fullerton team had played small ball all season, called for Bryant to advance Caffrey. It was a tough assignment. Swindell, the best pitcher in college baseball that season with a 15-1 record for Texas, threw a first-pitch fastball inside for a ball. Then Bryant took a fastball for a strike. Another curveball was out of the strike zone for a ball.

Next, the righthanded-hitting Bryant lined a pitch foul.

“That was a shot,” Texas catcher Darren Loy said to Bryant. The two were teammates the previous summer.

“Well, it was foul and doesn’t do any good,” Bryant responded.

With a 2-2 count and the bunt sign lifted, Bryant stroked a ball into right-center field, easily scoring Caffrey. Bryant landed at third base with a triple and George Sarkissian brought him home with a sacrifice fly.

Fullerton’s 3-1 lead stood, giving the Titans their second national title.

“I didn’t really appreciate the moment at the time,” says Bryant, 57, from his home in Huntington Beach, Calif. “You look back on it, and you think, ‘Holy cow, that was pretty important and it was pretty cool.’ ”

Besides playing hero in a CWS title game, Bryant also holds the distinction of being one of six players to be selected a record seven times in the draft. These days, he teaches science to special education classes at Loara High in Anaheim and serves as an assistant baseball coach at Orange Coast JC in Costa Mesa.

Bryant earned an undergraduate degree from Fullerton and a master’s from Azusa Pacific, both in physical education. When he discusses the bridge between his two professions, he turns somewhat philosophical.

“(It is) helping kids realize that their success is in them, it’s not outside them,” Bryant said. “So if I can be involved in the process of how they can be what they want to be or at least help them get on the road toward doing what they want to do, that’s the joy, that’s the reward, that’s why I get into it.

That desire to get the most of his ability made Bryant attractive to the Mets, Astros, Phillies, Twins, Braves, Tigers and Reds from 1979 through 1984, a period of time when Major League Baseball conducted drafts in both January and June.

He was drafted out of El Toro High in Lake Forest, Calif., then four times while playing at Santa Ana (Calif.) JC and, finally, twice out of Fullerton. Bryant said his reasons for not signing ranged from not being prepared physically or mentally for pro ball, being injured or adamant about attending Fullerton. Also, bonus offers never reached $20,000.

Finally, out of negotiating options, he signed with the Reds as a 23rd-round pick in 1984 for less than

A four-year minor league career concluded at Double-A in 1987.

Bryant then returned to California where he and Tammy, his wife of 33 years, have three grown children, and he continues to connect the worlds of education and athletics.

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