2024 BCR Baseball Player of the Year: Max Bryant shows his glove for Mom

Hall senior ace went 8-0 with 1.12 ERA, 75 strikeouts

Hall senior Max Bryant lost his mom, Ali, 3 1/2 years ago to breast cancer. He carries her with him every time he takes the field with the inscription "Mom" stitched in his new pink glove. The BCR Player of the Year was the top pitcher in the area with an 8-0 record and 1.12 ERA.

Max Bryant was due for a new ball glove this year.

For any ballplayer, young or old, it’s like Christmas coming early.

He wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted, but he had a good idea.

“I was trying to decide whether or not I should to do something a little more flashy this year,” he said. “My dad (Eric) hasn’t always been a fan of flashy gloves. It’s always been black or brown. I was due for a new one. He gave me a choice whether I wanted a customized one and let me get whatever I wanted.”

He got a pink glove, with the inscription “MOM,” in memory of his mother, Ali, who lost her battle with breast cancer 3½ years ago.

She was just 39.

“So I felt like I should do that,” he said. “She’s always with me. I’ve got ‘MOM’ on there. She knows I’m always playing for her. She always helps and is looking down on me. It’s nice to always being playing for someone.”

“She’s always with me. I’ve got ‘MOM’ on there. She knows I’m always playing for her. She always helps and is looking down on me.”

—  Max Bryant

And Bryant certainly a had a senior season to make his mom proud.

The Hall Red Devils’ ace right-hander won every game he pitched this spring, going 8-0 with a Bob Gibson-like 1.12 ERA. He struck out an area-high 75 batters in just 43.2 innings.

One of those victories was a 9-0 win over Bureau Valley on the Red Devils’ “Mom’s Day.”

He was unanimously named Three Rivers East All-Conference and named to the ICA Class 2A All-State Team.

For all of his accomplishments, Bryant is the 2024 BCR Baseball Player of the Year.

“Whenever he was on the mound we felt we had a chance to win. He anchored a staff that really carried us this year, because we were up and down offensively,” Hall head coach Tom Keegan said. “The number of K’s he had in relation to innings pitched was something that popped out to me. He worked fast, threw strikes and got outs for the Red Devils and now it’s onto bigger and better things for him.”

Bryant was reunited with Matt McDonald, who returned as the Red Devils’ pitching coach this year and has been “working with me since I was a little kid,” and thrived.

“He knows me so well and when I’ve got my stuff and what I can do to adjust. And when I don’t have my stuff to adjust,” Bryant said. “He’s working with all these guys. He understands all of us and is such a smart guy. It’s so nice to have him around.”

McDonald said what makes Bryant special is how competitive he is when he steps on mound.

“He really wants to embarrass you as a hitter and will do anything and everything in his power to give his team a chance to win,” he said. “I really believe Max’s best days may be ahead for him. He’s got that prototype pitchers body long and lanky and with his competitive drive and maturing through the process, the ceiling is extremely high and excited for that to play out.

“I also want to say we had some other guys on mound that were really good and that pushed Max and rest of the staff to keep raising the bar as season went on and I believed the team benefited from that competitive competition all year.”

Hall's Max Bryant poses for a photo at Foley Field at Kirby Park in Spring Valley. Bryant is the  Bureau County Republican 2024 player of the year.

The Red Devils repeated as regional champions this season, finishing 20-10. Bryant had “no clue” what was going to happen this year.

“We’re losing a lot of guys and lot of young guys got to fill big spots. Didn’t know how we were going to play out and we started winning games,” he said. “We found a way to get it done. I just felt like guys did their jobs and we did what we had to do to win games.”

While he wanted to step up and be a senior leader, Bryant said he didn’t want to try to do too much.

“Keegs always tells us to leave a footprint before you leave Hall High School it was nice to get that regional and I guess put that footprint and do what I wanted here at Hall,” he said.

The only time Bryant didn’t get a decision in a Red Devils’ win when he pitched is when he started against Mendota and only got in 2.2 innings (1 unearned run) before it got rained out and picked up the next day.

“I don’t care. We won,” he said. “It’s always been for the guys. I don’t like playing for myself and I don’t think that anyone who does should be playing baseball. Baseball is not a single-person sport. There’s a reason there’s nine players on the field.

“Keegs’ always preaches to us, too ‘We over Me,’ and we have that on our practice shirts. That’s what brought us together as a team this year and took all the selflessness out of every thing.”

Bryant is the seventh straight Hall player to be named as the BCR Player of the Year since 2018, following the likes of Cam McDonald, Brant Vanaman, Ty Rybarczyk, Jimmy DeAngelo, Trez Rybarczyk and Mac Resetich.

He said watching the 2018 Red Devils win the Class 2A State championship made him know he really loved the game and play Red Devil baseball.

“That was kind of the stepping stone when I knew I really wanted to pursue baseball,” he said. “After seeing Cam and Brant and Ty and Jimmy down there and how well they played and how close it brought all of them together, when I got to high school I was really excited for that and to become a close group with all these guys like that 2018 team was.”

In addition to playing for his mom, Bryant got to play along side his brother, Luke, a freshman standout for Hall this year. Like his brother, the younger Bryant was first-team All-BCR and unanimously named Three Rivers East All-Conference.

Bryant said it was very special.

“Almost brings a tear to my eye every time I think about it, now that it’s over,” he said. “I was so excited for it. Beginning of year, he was like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it.’ I’m like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to have some confidence. Got to believe un yourself.’

“First day he was there with us, there was no doubt in my mind he was going to be there with us. And I just loved every second playing with him. That’s the first time I’ve been able to be on a team with him and play beside him. One of the more funnest experiences in my life.”

Bryant’s future is up in the air. He’s been talking to a couple of college and is “waiting to see how it plays out.”

For now, he’s playing in the Corn Belters Collegiate League out of Bloomington, playing three or four games a week.

“It’s nice to kind of get a head start on the college experience playing against college guys who know what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s not just high school guys who you (only) face two or three good batters, where in college you’re facing (No.) 1 through 9 good guys.”

Where ever his next step takes him on the diamond, Bryant will take his mom along with him and continue to make her proud.

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