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Graney: Bryson Stott reaches ultimate goal of World Series

Bryson Stott never stopped setting goals.

Make varsity as a freshman in high school. Sign with a Division I college program. Win the Mountain West Player of the Year award. Be selected to play with the Team USA collegiate national team. Become a first-round Major League Baseball selection. Play shortstop in the bigs.

Stott has envisioned this place in time for years. He could see it. Sense it. Feel it. Worked like crazy for it.

“He has always been very focused and self-disciplined if it’s what he wants,” said Shana Stott, Bryson’s mother. “He has always mapped out what he wants to do. I call him my Dennis the Menace because he can be as stubborn as they come. He loves being told he can’t do something. You won’t do this. You won’t do that. He thrives on that.”

Amazing. Stott and Phillies star Bryce Harper are Las Vegas natives who sit four wins from a championship when Philadelphia opens the World Series at Houston on Friday. It won’t be easy. The Astros are, for good reason, a strong favorite. They have yet to lose this postseason.

“Kinda just being from the same city and playing with one of your best friends on the biggest stage is something not a lot of people could say they ever do,” Stott told reporters. “Just being able to represent Las Vegas with him … I mean, I see a bunch of Vegas shirts all the time out here …”

Shana Stott was the cheerleader coach of Harper’s sister, Brittany, at El Dorado High. Bryson’s older brother, Brennen, played club ball with Harper. Stott’s father, Derek, played quarterback at UNLV. Breauna Stott — who they call the athlete of the family — is a three-time national champion cheerleader for the Rebels.

It’s a family affair times two.

“We’ve been close friends (with the Harper’s) for years,” Shana said. “It’s funny how things have come full circle.”

College days

When a hit was needed, he got it. When a play was needed, he made it. That was Stott at UNLV. Special from the beginning.

Kevin Higgins isn’t surprised. He’s not taken aback at the trajectory of Stott’s career. That so much good has already happened for the 25-year-old out of Desert Oasis High.

Higgins is associate head coach for the Rebels who remembers well how Stott approached the game, how an inner confidence always allowed him to remain ahead of what can be a brutally challenging curve. Baseball is hard to excel at. It’s nearly impossible to make and succeed at the highest of levels.

“He did everything right from the minute he stepped on our campus,” said Higgins, who coached at College of Southern Nevada when Harper as a 17-year-old played the 2010 season for the Coyotes. “(Stott) just went about his business. I watched it for three years. He’s playing the same way now. The lights have never been too big for Bryson.”

They’re blinding for both the Phillies and Astros.

You don’t get bigger than this. You don’t pursue any loftier goal.

Veteran leadership

It’s not just Harper who has tutored and advised Stott throughout the season. Major league veterans Jean Segura and Nick Castellanos. They and others taught him how to be a Major Leaguer. And it worked.

Stott experienced the predictable ups and downs, the roller-coaster ride most all rookies take at one time or another. He made the Opening Day roster, struggled to find consistency at the plate and was sent down to Triple-A.

But he was quickly recalled and would play 127 regular-season games, hitting .234 with 10 home runs, 19 doubles and 49 RBIs. He then became the first rookie in Phillies history to record multiple extra-base hits in a postseason game against the Padres in the NLCS.

“I just think he’s so competitive and so persistent,” said Brennen Stott. “He refuses to fail. If things aren’t going well or he’s having difficulty with things, he just works hard in those areas. He endlessly works until he feels he’s in a better spot.

“If results don’t come right away, he works until he feels he has gotten over the hump. He’s always working, which is a big reason he has gotten to this point.”

Four wins from a World Series title.

Now that’s a goal.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter

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