Bryant has been working his whole life for a chance to play professional baseball. Whether it was time spent in a backyard batting cage that his father built, or excruciating workouts with his high school and college teammates, he's always stayed focused on his one ultimate goal.
Mike Bryant taught his son Kris, and future Texas Ranger Joey Gallo how to hit while they were growing up in Las Vegas.
When Kris and his brother were growing up, his parents made sure the boys kept up with school work.
"They didn't play until the homework got done," their mother, Susie said. "We always hoped the baseball would get him a scholarship. Education was very important to us."
Armed with a 4.78 GPA and an uncanny ability to drive the ball out of any ballpark, Kris chose to attend the University of San Diego.
By the time Bryant was 16, he could toss a ball some 300 feet, the length of a football field.
Kris might be a bit too laid-back and need to exhibit more energy for the game. But he has a good work ethic an attitude. He's just quiet.
"You have to have a positive mind-set, because this game can really beat you up," Bryant said. "I feel really blessed that I'm able to play this game professionally. Themain thing for me to focus on is just staying positive. If I have the right mind-set, going out there every day wanting to play and having a smile on my face, I really think the sky is the limit."
His father, Mike Bryant, was a farmhand in the Red Sox system in the 1980s. And Mike still clearly remembers the day he realized Kris was special.
“We were on an elementary school playground, he was 5 years old, at his older brother’s practice,” Mike Bryant recalled. “At the end of the practice, the coach let the younger siblings take a couple hacks—there were like three of them. So I went up there, I was throwing some overhand tosses. The other kids took a couple swings. The first ball I threw to Kris, he launched it into the air—it had to go 30 feet into the outfield. He had this huge bat, like a 31-inch bat, and he was tiny. The ball just—it jumped, it soared. One swing. I had him take a couple more—it was line drives. He just had . . . something. At 8 years old he started hitting them out over the Little League fence, 200-foot fences. And as a 9-year-old, he was hitting tons of them. Home runs, man.”
At age 9, Bryant hit seven home runs at a club tournament, and his father first recognized a fire burning inside him to become great. Growing up in Las Vegas, Bryant played in several tournaments with phenom Bryce Harper. Bryant is 10 months older, but both of them were constantly playing up against older competition.
To say all of his preparation has been all work is a bit of an overstatement, but only because Kris has certainly had a lot of fun with it over the years. He knows keeping the game loose and fun is a critical element to progressing through the ranks, and that isn't any different than how he has ever treated the game.
"Some guys (in pro ball), they like to hope for a rainout or something, for an off-day," Bryant said. "My mind-set is just to go out there and have fun, do the best I can on the field, and good things will come my way."
Kris's father, Mike Bryant, wore uniform #17 when he was in the minors in the early 1980s, so that number is kind of special to Kris.
Bryant's father loves baseball but never pushed his son to play the game. Mike Bryant did, however, install that batting cage at their home in Las Vegas.
"I wouldn't say he worked me hard; I would say it's me wanting to do good," Bryant said of his father. "He was never the dad who made me go out to the field and practice. It was me going out there asking him, 'Could you throw to me after work?'"
"I think you need parents like that," Bryant said. "You don't want someone to push you to the point where you don't want to play any more. My dad never did that."
In 2010, Kris got drafted by the Blue Jays in the 18th round, out of Bonanza High School in Las Vegas. But Kris chose a baseball scholarship to the University of San Diego, passing up offers from LSU, Arizona State, UC-Irvine, Stanford, Clemson, Auburn, USC, and Vanderbilt,
Bryant says he chose to attend USD because of the great baseball program, the beach, and the weather in San Diego.
In 2011, Bryant earned freshman All-America honors and first-team All-America honors in 2012.
In the summer of 2012, he ranked second on Team USA with an .876 OPS.
In 2013, Bryant was Baseball America’s College Player of the Year.
At the University of San Diego, Kris led the nation with 31 home runs.
Bryant is loaded with character and makeup. He is very coachable, applying instruction quickly. He has impressive intelligence and a strong work ethic.
Kris is very much into cars. He also likes playing golf.
- Kris was considered the best power college bat in the 2013 Draft after leading the nation in home runs (31), runs scored (80), walks and slugging percentage (.820). In 62 games, he batted .329 with 13 doubles and 62 RBIs. San Diego would bat him leadoff to avoid having teams pitch around him.
The third baseman received the Dick Howser trophy as the 2013 College Player of the Year.
Bryant was a 6-foot-5 build that draws comparisons to Troy Glaus.
Bryant, the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, won the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award as the nation's best amateur player.
One of Kris's best characteristics is his willingness to learn. Many of the Cubs' Minor League coaching staff described him as a "sponge," eager to listen and learn.
"Getting to know Kris in the short period of time [he's been with the Cubs], he's going to make adjustments when he feels things aren't right or he feels he needs to make some type of physical adjustment," said Anthony Iapoce, the Cubs' Minor League hitting coordinator in October 2013. "He'll start making those on his own, or he'll come and question, and say, 'Hey, I want to do this.' He won't sit there and keep making outs. He's going to find a way to adjust, or he wouldn't be the second pick in the Draft."
Iapoce wasn't about to make any drastic changes in Bryant's approach.
"He loves baseball, and he wants to be the best at it," Iapoce said. "He knows the work he's put in has given him confidence for what he wants to accomplish."
In 2014, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Bryant as the second-best prospect in the Cubs organization (behind only SS Javier Baez). And in the offseason before 2015 spring training, they had Kris at #1.
In 2013, Kris was named Most Valuable Player in the Arizona Fall League.
Bryant has said, "This game is my passion, and I love every minute of it." When he was younger, he would go to Minor League games in Las Vegas to see the 51s play.
"It's just the fact that you're seeing a professional baseball player, and everyone there seems larger than life," he said. "It's cool to see someone there who has made it into professional baseball. It was a dream for me to play there, and I get to live out that dream now."
Speaking of growing up in Vegas, Bryant is not a gambler, but he did see a few shows on the strip. "You definitely stay away from the craziness," he said. (Muskat - mlb.com - 3/13/14)
In 2014, Baseball America's annual survey of Minor League Managers had Bryant named as the "Best Batting Prospect," "Best Power Prospect," "Best Infield Arm" and the "Most Exciting Player" in the Southern League.
In 2014, Cubs' top prospect Bryant was named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year.
A handful of organizations hand out a minor league player of the year award, but Baseball America’s is considered to be the most prestigious by many. Bryant led the minors in extra-base hits, home runs (43), slugging (.661) and OPS (1.098).
In 2014, Bryant was named the Cub's Minor League Player of the Year.
Manager Joe Maddon's first impressions of Bryant at 2015 Spring Training?
"That he gets it," Maddon said. "Of course, he's talented, great body, great power, wonderful arm, good third baseman, good outfielder. He's a lot of good things and he gets it. I think he understands the work involved necessary to be great. He's rather humble for me. He's not outgoing in a sense in a negative way. He knows he's good. There's also a humility about him, too." (Muskat - mlb.com - 2/23/15)
After the 2014 season, Bryant had a busy offseason. Besides accepting awards, he went to an Angels playoff game with his agent Scott Boras, which was made public because Boras' seats are directly behind home plate.
"It was definitely a cool atmosphere," Bryant said. "Just to see that sea of red of fans in the stands for the Angels was definitely something cool, and I hope to be part of a team, definitely the Cubs, to see a sea of blue at Wrigley Field some day."
Bryant also took advantage of a batting cage at home, hitting nearly every day since Jan. 1, 2015. His father believes in Ted Williams' approach to hitting, and he tried to pass on tips to his son.
"We do a lot of research and just looking at the angles of how the ball is coming in and where I need my bat to be to hit that ball squarely," Bryant said. "It's definitely a more advanced approach and gives me a headache at times, but I wouldn't have it any other way." (Muskat - mlb.com - 2/23/15)
Kris was able to spend time with his grandparents, his cat Wrigley, and relive some very good childhood memories as he returned home.
"When I came here growing up, it seemed so larger than life," Bryant said of Cashman Field in Mesa, Arizona, where the Cubs have split-squad matchups with the Athletics.
"Everybody on the field looked like it was such a reach for me to be there, and now I'm in that position, playing on this field, on a field where I got a chance to watch players play on," Bryant said. "It's a surreal feeling for me. I know it's only a Triple-A field but it still has a special place in my heart, trying to get foul balls down the line."
Bryant and his family would buy tickets for what he called the "cheap seats" at Cashman along the right field line. He'd chase after foul balls, but didn't try to collect autographs.
"I just wanted to come watch the game," Bryant said. "One time I got a seat right behind home plate, and that's a game I remember, because I got to see the pitching up close and the velocity and the break, and I was like, 'I want to be there someday,' and I'm standing here right now." (Carrie Muskat - MLB.com - March 13, 2015)
2015 Spring Training seems to have verified all the things we thought we knew about Bryant. That is, he's on his way to becoming baseball's next great player. Sometimes, the bottom line couldn't be simpler.
"It's almost comical to see some of the things he's done," teammateJake Arrieta said. "He's like a video game. He gets the ball in the air, and he's just so strong. It seems like he's hitting 450-foot popups, and they never come down."
When scouts talk about the baseball coming off the bat of certain guys with a distinctive sound, they're talking about players like Bryant. It's a sound that's impossible to describe, but baseball men know it when they hear it. It helps define the special ones.
"There are a bunch of guys who have superstar capabilities," Cubs hitting coach John Mallee said. "He falls in that category. He's got tremendous bat speed and long arms and a lot of leverage. He's also very consistent."
"When you watch him hit, you get excited," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "When you talk to him, you get even more excited. He's very unassuming. The statements come from his play. He's not a big talker. But he's confident. He's very confident. He's not going to back away from the fact that he's good and knows he's good. He does it the right way."
Mallee worked with Miguel Cabrera,Giancarlo Stanton, and Jose Altuve during his stops with the Marlins and Astros. In Bryant, he sees some similar traits.
"It's the way he carries himself and how professional he is," Mallee said. "He's the same guy whether he strikes out or hits a home run. There's no emotion with him, no fear. He's very mature for his age in regard to how he handles different situations. His ability to bounce back after a pitch or if the umpire makes a bad call. He blows it off and gets ready for the next pitch."
Bryant certainly has dealt with the attention in stride. He seems completely unflappable about both the success and the speculation on where he'll begin the season. As the Cubs say, almost too good to be true.
"I'm always having fun," he said. "We get to play a game for a living. It's hard not to go out there with a smile on your face." (Justice - mlb.com - 3/15/15)
Kris' dad, Mike Bryant played the guitar. He was in a band once; they played Southern-style rock music, though Mike Bryant grew up near Boston.
He says he would have been just as proud had Kris picked up a guitar instead of one of those baseball bats at an early age.
With all the home runs Kris had already belted the spring of 2015, it's hard to imagine that Bryant had time in his schedule to do anything else. Thankfully for one young Cubbies fan, Bryant has managed to squeeze in a moment or two to put his John Hancock on some baseball swag.
As if an up-and-coming star signing autographs for a child at Spring Training isn't inherently so cute we just can't handle it, this little boy has to go and continuously call Bryant by his first and last name as though he's speaking directly to a trading card or action figure.
“A million thanks to Kris Bryant @KrisBryant_23 for making my son so incredibly happy. Thank you so much, Kris! #Cubs”(Bertha – mlb.com – 3/19/15)
When the Cubs sent Bryant to Triple-A near the end of 2015 spring training, it caused quite an uproar. The Chicago fans, media, the media in every other market and the MLBPA threated litigation.
Kris' bat made it a good point. When he was sent down on March 30, 2015, he had hit .425 with 9 home runs and 15 RBI in 40 at-bats.
"Today is a bad day for baseball," the Major League Baseball Players Association said in a statement. "I think we all know that even if Kris Bryant were a combination of the greatest players to play our game, and perhaps he will be before it's all said and done, the Cubs still would have made the decision they made today. This decision, and other similar decisions made by clubs will be addressed in litigation, bargaining or both."
And MLB defended the Cubs' decision.
"In accordance with long established practice under the Basic Agreement, a club has an unfettered right to determine which players are part of its opening-day roster," MLB said in a statement. "This issue was discussed extensively in bargaining in 2011, and the principle was not changed. We do not believe that it is appropriate for the players' association to make the determination that Kris Bryant should be on the Cubs' 25-man roster while another player, who, unlike Bryant, is a member of its bargaining unit, should be cut or sent to the minor leagues."
April 17, 2015: The sport that lost Derek Jeter in 2014 welcomed another bright, talented kid onto its biggest stage, just as it did on Sept. 17, 1953, when Ernie Banks went 0-for-3 in a 16-4 loss to the Phillies. And just as it will again when Byron Buxton (for the Twins) and Carlos Correa (for the Astros) follow Bryant's trail to the Major Leagues.
"I try to be as good of a person as I do a player, even a better person,'' Bryant said. "I think that's important. To come in the footsteps of a guy like [Banks], it's a huge honor to wear this uniform he wore before me, and other guys before him. I'm ready to put it on and make him proud.''
Bryant, the Las Vegas native who made a name for himself hitting home runs at University of San Diego, wore No. 17 when he took the field. That's the number his father, Mike, wore when he was playing in the Red Sox's farm system.
In 181 Minor League games, he delivered a slash line of .327/.426/.667 while hitting 55 home runs and driving in 152 runs. He had homered for Iowa in New Orleans, and had a second home run taken away by a leaping catch at the wall.
Maddon liked that the guy who was the Cubs' best hitter in the Cactus League (.425, nine homers, 15 RBIs in 40 at-bats) had to get up early and travel to Chicago for his hastily scheduled debut.
"I love that,'' Maddon said before the game. "He's a little bit blurry-eyed right now, bloodshot, no sleep. Lot of excitement, his family coming to town, day game, Wrigley Field, 70 degrees in April, I'm sure he's feeling all that. But to be that tired can help you relax. I think it's almost the perfect setting for him to show up.''
Bryant demonstrated his poise to his teammates with his strong play in the field, especially on a diving grab to his right when he used his full height of 6-foot-5 1/2 (according to Epstein)
"Way to be tall!'' Maddon yelled from the bench.
One of Maddon's favorite phrases is, "Don't let the pressure exceed the pleasure,'' and he said that Bryant has told him the phrase resonates with him.
"He's mentioned that to me,'' Maddon said. "I like the idea that he has grasped onto that because it's pertinent to him. I think that's a simple phrase to follow whenever things get complicated. Things get complicated if you permit them.'' (Phil Rogers - MLB.com - April 17, 2015)
April 24, 2015: Bryant said he prefers to stay focused on the field, and not on any potential grievance that the Major League Baseball Players Association may consider filing on his behalf because of the timing of his callup.
"For me, I'm just supposed to play on the field and worry about what I do out there," Bryant said. "I'm not worried about the stuff off the field. I'm here to help the team win now, and I'm having fun with it."
There has been some talk about the union possibly filing a grievance. Bryant said he'd like to see some discussion about players and service time, which may lead to a change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but he also cautioned that he's not well-versed in the matter.
"I'd have to be more educated on the subject," Bryant said. "I feel I can't really speak about it now. I don't really know what I'm supposed to do."
Bryant, said he would hope to have final say since it is his career that's being discussed. He'd also like to just stick to baseball talk.
"That whole situation is in the past," Bryant said. "I'm not even thinking about it right now. I'm here now, which is awesome. It's a dream of mine that came true. I really don't care to speak about it any more. It's in the past." (C Muskat - MLB.com - April 24, 2015)
May 9, 2015: The moment Bryant's first Major League home run landed in the Brewers' bullpen, Marcus Hanel knew exactly what he would do with it.
"We're all family, and that's a cherished moment," said Hanel, a Wisconsin native and longtime Brewers bullpen catcher. "I'm not going to hold ransom for that. I mean, yeah, I wish I was a fan, because that thing would have been cool. But that's a moment for him and for baseball. You give those things back."
The next morning, Bryant sent a clubhouse attendant to deliver a signed baseball for Hanel. Inscribed "To Koos" (Hanel's nickname), it read, "Thanks for getting the HR ball!"
Considering the buildup to Bryant's power-hitting-professional-career moment, Hanel knew he had something special when the baseball hit the back wall in the Brewers' bullpen and rolled to a stop. "I knew as soon as it was hit, 'OK, who's coming to get it?' I saw the security people already talking," Hanel said.
The someone turned out to be visiting clubhouse attendant Ben Wilkes. "I go, 'I ain't giving it up! I want a bat, a jersey!'" Hanel said. "I really played it up. But he played along. He said, 'I already told [Bryant] you want his firstborn named after you.'"
Wilkes took the ball to a Major League Baseball official for authentication, then took it to the Cubs' clubhouse. As Bryant spoke to reporters after the game, the ball was already sitting on a shelf in his locker.
Whether a milestone home run or not, Hanel has a routine for the baseballs which find their way into the Brewers' bullpen. He subtly pockets the ball, grabs a decoy from his equipment bag and tosses it up into the stands for a fan. Then he puts the ball in an empty cup, straps tape across the top, labels the owner and has each ball authenticated.
As for Kris Bryant and the ball he hit out for his first homer.
"I'll just keep it. I'll put it somewhere in my room or something," Bryant said. "Those are always special, the first hit. You know I broke my bat on my first hit, so I've got to keep my bat, too. It'll be on the mantel somewhere." (McCalvy - mlb.com - 5/10/15)
If you think Kris Bryant likes Wrigley Field, then you should see his other friendly confines. Kris resides in a lofty place high above Wacker Drive and the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, and when Bryant is home, he can seemingly see forever. Bryant gazes through floor-to-ceiling windows at the Willis Tower, Trump Tower, and Lake Michigan, taking in the sweeping cityscape views. There is even a rooftop oasis fitting for a Cub, a place to grill, lounge in private cabanas and hang out with friends.
"This is definitely downtown living, which I'd never experienced before, but I'm liking so far," Bryant said on a perfect day in his luxury apartment. "I'm glad I chose to stay down here—especially on a day like this. Summer days here, I hear, are pretty good. Coming out here and relaxing and taking it all in and seeing all these buildings, it's a pretty cool place to live."
Watch the new Coldwell Banker Home Field Advantage video, and you can see how cool it is from Bryant's perspective during homestands.
"For me, home is ... a way to get away from the outside world and just relax and watch TV and eat some good food and just hang out with friends and family," Bryant said. "It's definitely a time that I treasure and something that I look forward to each day.
"When I signed, I got a little taste of Chicago. I had never been here before that. It's kind of hard to prepare for. It's a lot bigger city than I'd been to. I've seen all the food places. There's a steakhouse on every corner down here. Just being close to the food, and just getting the experience of living downtown, I've never really got to experience that before."
What a scene as Bryant sits on a sofa in a corner of his apartment: Looking through glass at iconic skyscrapers everywhere around him, and looking through glass on the coffee table in front of him to gaze at another treasured item. This one is a dirty game-used base from that unforgettable April 17, when he was called up for his debut against San Diego.
"I don't know what base this is, but it's a base from my Major League debut," Bryant said. "It's just a cool memento, I think, to have and to keep and to cherish. It's a memory I'll have forever. Right now it's on my table here, and I get to see it every day."
Other memorabilia on display in the apartment includes two side-by-side baseballs that he struck for the first two homers of his Major League career. One was from the May 9 game at Milwaukee, his first career blast. The other was off Jacob deGrom of the Mets, the first official ball hit into the refurbished bleachers at Wrigley. The fan who gave that ball back to the club can watch the video and see its ultimate resting place. "Definitely a special one for me," Bryant said, "just hitting the first one at home, getting the first two out of the way and continuing on with my career."
It continues on with warm welcomes every day from neighbors around Chicago. "The people are awesome," Bryant said. "You love walking the streets down here. It seems like everybody down here is a Cubs fan. I'm walking around downtown and seeing Cubs hats everywhere, Cubs sweatshirts, and I'm like, 'Well, I don't know if they're going to know who I am or not,' but if they do, it's always been good luck and welcome—it's been really fun for me.
"I think it's the best place to play. Just having Cubs fans out there behind you, cheering you on each and every at-bat, it's pretty special. Just to hear how supportive they are of us and what we do, it really makes it easy on us to go out there and play hard for them." (Newman - mlb.com - 5/19/15)
2015 All-Star Game: Cubs rookie Kris Bryant was named as a replacement for Giancarlo Stanton of Miami, who was injured.
Mike Bryant's bucket list includes playing golf in Hawaii, fishing for rainbow trout in some place like Montana, sitting in with the Grateful Dead and pitching to his son, Kris, in a home run hitting contest.
On July 13, 2015 in Cincinnati, Mike Bryant checked one item off that list. Kris Bryant was one of two Cubs named to the 2015 Gillette Home Run Derby, and he will join teammate Anthony Rizzo in the event at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
"This is just frosting on the cake that he's in the Home Run Derby and I'm able to pitch to him," Mike Bryant said. "I'll take the chocolate, with the cake being that Kris made the All-Star team."
Bryant was selected by National League manager Bruce Bochy to play in the All-Star Game. Then the rookie found out about the Home Run Derby, and he immediately called his dad.
"I told him two years ago, I said, 'Hey, if you ever make it to the big leagues and get in the Home Run Derby, I want to pitch to you,'" Mike Bryant said.
The elder Bryant was an outfielder in the Red Sox's Minor League system but never made it to the big leagues. He did play in a band, so he's used to being on stage, although Bryant knew there'd be more people at Great American Ball Park than ever attended his concerts.
"I don't know how I'm going to react to that," Mike said. "I hope I don't clam up and can't throw a strike. I think I'll be able to collect myself. The last time I played in front of 50,000 people was like never. I played in front of 15,000 once and that didn't bother me."
If the Bryants win, Mike is hoping the first-place prize might be a truck. He's driving a 2007 Hyundai with 180,000 miles on it, so he could use a new set of wheels. Mike is also eager to get a photo of Pujols, Kris, and himself as a souvenir. "There will be a lot of smiling going on," Mike said.
His arm is ready. The elder Bryant estimates he throws between 300-400 pitches a day as a hitting instructor. "I'm really excited about this," Mike said. "I'm excited for Kris. He always rolls his eyes at me a little bit because I'm such a Type A personality and he's such a Type B. I won't embarrass him." (Muskat - mlb.com - 7/9/15)
In 2015, Bryant was named Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year Award—becoming the first player to earn BA’s College Player of the Year (2013), Minor League Player of the Year (2014), and rookie awards in successive years.
November 9, 2015: Bryant's breakout rookie season was recognized by his peers, as the third baseman was honored with the Players Choice Award for the National League's Outstanding Rookie for 2015.
And on November 16, 2015, Kris was the unanimous winner of the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year -- the big ROA, by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
December 17, 2015: Kris and Bryce Harper were honored with keys to the city of Las Vegas.The NL MVP Award winner and NL Rookie of the Year Award winner are both Las Vegas natives.
Rookie sensation Bryant and his girlfriend, Jessica Delp, are high school sweethearts. They've been together for years, to the point where they can finish each other's sandwiches . . . er, sentences.
Bryant and his girl friend recorded "Frozen" Dubsmash with "Love Is An Open Door" and it is surprisingly spot-on. It's a a duet built around the male vocal scamming a woman into a relationship might not be the most natural choice, but who are we to disagree with Kris Bryant, who clearly knows a thing or two about "Frozen"? (C Landers - MLB.com -October 3, 2015)
December 2015: Bryant proposed to his high school sweetheart Jessica Delp, his girlfriend of eight years.
On what prompted him to propose to high school sweetheart Jessica Delp. Kris said,"I've been with her since I was a sophomore in high school. So I thought it was time. I'm a little more established, know what I want to do in my career and I thought it was the right time. Happy wife, happy life."
Kris doesn't drink. At least not yet. Someday, he will take a swig of champagne. It won't happen when he marries his high school sweetheart, Jessca Delp, late in 2016 (or early in 2017). Instead, it will come in the Cubs' clubhouse after they win the World Series.
In the spring of 2015, Joe Maddon told Kris how good he could be, and the Cubs' third baseman won the Nl Rookie of the Year Award. Then, in the spring of 2016, when they met for their annual pre-Spring Training talk, the discussion was more about their offseason adventures and Maddon's recreational vehicle.
Their relationship has grown, and that's vital to Bryant's -- and any young player's -- development. When Bryant arrived in spring camp in 2015, there was an overload of hype surrounding the Minor League Player of the Year.
"I told him how good I thought he was going to be and what's ahead for him and the different things to work on," Maddon said of their chat one year ago.
Little did Maddon know how good. The only disappointing element was that Bryant didn't break with the Cubs despite leading the Major Leagues in spring 2015 home runs.
"I was confident he would respond well," Maddon said about their talks last year. "We had some good conversations, me and him, in the office—very candid, frank, open, all of the above. I got a good feel from him. He was very self-confident. He was disappointed he was not starting with us but had the team goals in mind. He was straight up with me and looked me right in the eye balls [saying he belonged in big leagues] and I don't blame him," Maddon said. "When he got up here, he showed it was true."
He was 23, sitting down with a new manager, yet Bryant didn't mince words one year ago.
"I truly believed it," Bryant said about being ready for the big leagues. "I think it's important to have belief in yourself. If you don't believe you belong, you shouldn't be playing the game. There's so much to this game that will get you down. If I'm in here with the intent that you belong and you can compete with everybody, it only helps you and I think that really helped me in 2015."
Bryant did appreciate Maddon's honesty.
"It's kind of weird when you come into big league camp and it's your first manager," Bryant said of their talks. "I knew what type of manager Joe Maddon was just seeing him and he was really cool. They were weird conversations at first, but establishing that honesty and being real with one another only helped us throughout the year. He recognized when I wasn't going well and he pulled me into his office last year. Those 2015 Spring Training conversations really helped propel our relationship." (Muskat - MLB.com - 2/28/16)
Bryant has endorsement deals with Adidas and Red Bull, and he launched his connection with Express Clothing. Does he like the exposure?
"I like it to a certain extent," he said. "You have to pick and choose what you think is good for you and what represents you, and I think all the stuff I've done so far kind of shows me as a person and my personality. I don't want to just do stuff to get out there. I've never been the type to seek the attention. I just want to be another guy here in the clubhouse. Some of the stuff is fun. I wear the Express, so it's nice to connect with them and do that. It should be a fun year." (Muskat - MLB.com - 3/3/16)
March 2016: In a prank sponsored by Red Bull, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year was introduced to the Mesa Community College Baseball team as Roy Nabryt, a European transfer who manager Tony Cirelli described as a "big donkey"— eat your heart out Adam Dunn.
”He can help us," Cirelli told his Thunderbolts team. "Guys who are pitching are going to lose some innings. Guys who are hitting are going to lose at-bats. If he gets us to Omaha [for the College World Series] and we win another ring, no one’s going to be complaining.”
The Thunderbolts team watched "Nabryt" slug homer after homer in batting practice before quickly realizing, "That's Kris Bryant." (CSN Chicago - March 2016)
Bryant played with the Nationals' Bryce Harper while growing up in Las Vegas. They were teammates when Harper was 14 and Bryant 13 on the Southern Nevada Bulldogs. There was one game when Bryant pitched a one-hit complete game and Harper homered for the winning run. "He was 11 years old and throwing 80 mph off the mound. It was special to see that from a guy that young," Bryant said of Harper. "He's obviously younger than I am, but watching him play, I was amazed. I knew he'd be doing what he's doing at this level someday."
Harper has returned Bryant's compliments: "When we were younger, we used to call him 'Silk.' He was so smooth with everything he did. He played third, played short, played a little outfield when we were younger. He pitched, of course, and he always hit very well."
In a pregame ceremony, Kris received the Players Choice Award as the 2015 NL Outstanding Rookie. Selected in a secret ballot of all National League players, Bryant received his Players Choice Award from teammate Jake Arrieta.
In 2015 Bryant hit 26 home runs and drove in 99 runs to set rookie records for the Cubs. His play also helped the Cubs reach the postseason and earned Bryant a spot on the NL All-Star team. In recognition, the Major League Baseball Players Trust provided a charitable contribution of $20,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project, Bryant's personal selection. (Stavenhagen - MLB.com - 4/17/16)
Bryant is confident and he likes to have fun, but he's also polite, respectful and hesitant to draw attention to himself. He works hard and listens to is coaches. He's the humble player who calls his dad after most games.
He has no problem saying no to the things he doesn't want to do, but he embraces the opportunities that sound fun, confident in the belief that taking time away from the game to clear his head will ultimately make him a better player.
"I completely leave the game at the field—other than I'll probably call my dad and talk to him about it," Kris said. "After that, I'm done. I watch Neflix. We go out to dinner a lot, especially in Chicago. The food is awesome.
"I play a little guitar too. I just tinker around with some things, video games, that kind of thing." (Gary Cohen - Vine Line - May, 2016)
October 26, 2016: Kris Bryant and David Ortiz, two superstar sluggers who jointly symbolize the transfer of power in Major League Baseball, were named the recipients of the 2016 Hank Aaron Awards as the most outstanding offensive performer in his respective league.
In 2016, Bryant won the NL Most Valuable Player Award. He's the fourth player in history to win the MVP a year after winning Rookie of the Year, joining Cal Ripken Jr., Dustin Pedroia and Ryan Howard.
January 8, 2017: Kris Bryant and his girlfriend, Jessica Delp, were married.
Spring Training 2017: Kris is so trendy, some of the sons of his Cubs teammates are asking to get their hair cut like the reigning National League MVP. Bryant just laughs at the young copycats.
"Jake's [Arrieta] wife sent my wife the picture last night [of Arrieta's son, Cooper], and I said, 'That's so cool. 'A Kris Bryant, please.'" (Muskat - mlb.com 3/14/17)
The Cubs will get their 2016 World Series rings on April 12, 2017, in a ceremony at Wrigley Field. Kris's father will be likely be there.
"My dad is fighting with me, saying he wants to wear it for a whole year straight," Bryant said of his ring. "I said, 'Dad, you can't do that. Hopefully, I can find you a replica.'" (Muskat - mlb.com - 3/14/17)
When Kris got back to work on his swing in the offseason before 2017 spring training, his father, Mike, wanted him to remember how he was pitched to in the Minor Leagues, and that's what they worked on. His mother, Susie, was busy handling all the wedding gifts. They started hitting in the batting cage six weeks after the World Series ended. Kris said he wants to hit the ball to the opposite field more in 2017, which is something he did in 2014, when he belted 43 homers and won Minor League Player of the Year honors.
"We've always talked about it, but it was more or less a game plan to prepare for this season," Mike said of their offseason work. "Because his batting average was so high on inside fastballs, we thought they'd try to work on the outer half of the plate. We tried to perfect that swing."
Meanwhile, Kris' mom was dealing with all the gifts Cubs fans sent. On one day, 86 boxes were delivered to Kris' parents' home.
"One day, me and Kris were playing catch in the cul de sac," Mike said. "The UPS guy gets off the truck and he goes, 'Is that Kris Bryant?' I said, 'Yeah.' We were playing catch in the cul de sac like we used to."
And Kris' adjustments at the plate? "He's kind of focused on trying to be ready when they miss on the outer half," Mike said. "His success was a product of necessity because of the way they were pitching. In the Minors, that's all they did was stay away from him. They never pitched in to him. He learned to do damage in the Minor Leagues because they were pounding the outer half of the plate. I wanted to get him more familiar with it again."
Both Mike and Susie said all the success their son has had -- winning the World Series, MVP Award -- hasn't changed him. However, there is a minor issue at home. Mike wants to wear Kris' World Series ring when he gets it.
"I said, 'Kris, c'mon, bucket list -- I just want to wear it for a year, that's all,'" Mike said, laughing.
Anthony Rizzo's father did send Mike a replica ring, although it's not a replica of the real World Series ring, since that design has been kept a secret. Mike and Susie will be at Wrigley Field for Opening Day April 10 and the ring ceremony on April 12. Kris may have to hide the ring. (Muskat - mlb.com - 3/26/17)
It is true that Bryant does not smoke, drink, or use profanity.
The Cubs have been known to toast victories in their postgame "party room" at Wrigley Feld with shots of whiskey. A clubhouse attendant fills Bryant's shot glass with apple juice.
"Guys," Bryant told his teammates midway through the 2016 season, "let's win the World Series. And when we do, I'll have my first sip of alcohol.
As for the truth of what happened following Game 7, let Bryant explain.
"We win the World Series and ... ," pausing for effect. "I still didn't do it. I didn't hold up my end of the bargain. It was such a big moment, but I just felt like i don't need to change who I am. I was the same person that got me to this point. So why do I have to be a different person after that? It just didn't make sense to me."
The charmed baseball life of Kris Bryant seems an invention of nostalgia, ripped from the Chip Hilton novels of Clair Bee in the 1950s and 60s. It seems especially fictitious in this cynical age when incivility, vulgarity and self-promotion usually win the shouting contest for media coverage, and when the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, is dismissed as too "boring," -- code for not controversial enough -- to be a crossover star.
As a child, the younger of two sons of Susie and Mike Bryant, wanted to be a dentist. ("I always enjoyed teeth, Kris said. "I don't know why. I brush my teeth a lot.") Now, Bryant is the standard-bearer for the sport. (Tom Verducci - Sports Illustrated - 3/27/2017)
April 28, 2017: Kris Bryant had taken batting practice one time at Fenway Park when he was a collegian and playing in the Cape Cod League, but he didn't clear the Green Monster during that visit.
"We had a practice here in college and I didn't hit one out," the Cubs' third baseman said before the game against the Red Sox. "Hopefully I can change the tide."
Bryant did just that in the first inning of the 5-4 loss to the Sox. He launched his third home run of the season, sending an 0-1 pitch from the Red Sox's Drew Pomeranz over the Monster.
"Bryant's a good hitter, (he) just reacted, got it out of here," Pomeranz said of the dinger that according to Statcast had an exit velocity of 106.8 mph and traveled 449 feet. It was the fifth-longest home run at Fenway Park in the Statcast Era.
As Bryant crossed home plate, he saw his dad and pointed to the stands. "That's probably the only time I've ever actually seen my family in the stands," Bryant said. "I was like, 'Oh, there he is. Proud dad.'"
It wasn't that Mike Bryant was the only one wearing Cubs blue in the crowd of 37,054, but he had an aisle seat and was jumping up and down in the aisle.
"It was probably one of my favorite home runs, considering my family is from this area and my dad [was drafted by the Red Sox] and all that," Bryant said. "It felt really good." (C Muskat - MLB.com - April 29, 2017)
2017: Bryant and Jake Arrieta appeared in the season finale on the TV show Chicago Fire.
"When we were younger, we used to call him 'Silk,'" the Nats' Bryce Harper said before the two played against each other for the first time in the Majors in May 2017. "He was so smooth with everything he did. He played third, played short, played a little outfield when we were younger. He pitched, of course, and he always hit very well." (Gardner - mlb.com - 6/28/17)
October 2017: Bryant revealed that if baseball didn't work out, he would want to be a dentist.
Jason Loutsch is a huge Cubs fan, so when it came time to name the dark bay colt his Albaugh Family Stable bought at the Keeneland Sales in September 2016, he decided to combine the names of his two favorite players, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
It turns out, "Bryzzo" is a winner.
On Nov. 17 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., the 2-year-old Bryzzo won his second race, which was a "nice surprise," said Loutsch, the managing general partner at Albaugh Family Stable. What also was a surprise to Loutsch is that the name they concocted is the same as the Bryzzo ad campaign created by Major League Baseball.
"We have a tough time coming up with names," Loutsch said. "We try to name them after family members or an event or people we like who are famous. I'm a diehard Chicago Cubs fan and we won the World Series, obviously, so I thought it would be great to name him after my two favorite Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. I took the Bryant and Rizzo and came up with Bryzzo." (Carrie Muskat -MLB.com -Nov. 27, 2017)
June 6, 2013: The Cubs chose Bryant in the first round, the second pick overall, behind only pitcher Mark Appel to the Astros. He signed on July 11, the day before the deadline, for a bonus of $6.7 million.
"[My dad] has taught me what Ted Williams taught him," Kris said. "It's been awesome to have him as a dad. He's taught me how to go about my journey and avoid potholes that I stepped in. He's been a great resource."
"For me, it's been incredibly satisfying, because to watch his talent grow, you knew he had a shot [at a pro contract], but we never made that the focus," Kris's father, Mike Bryant said. "We looked at baseball as the opportunity to deliver an education."
The emotions of the day were too much for Bryant's mother, Susie, who cried at the news conference at Wrigley. She was born in Chicago and still has family in the suburbs. No, they haven't started asking for Cubs tickets.
Did Kris always want to be a Major League ballplayer?
"No, he wanted to be a dentist," Susie said. (Carrie Muskat-MLB.com-7/12/13)
March 4, 2016: The Cubs and Bryant agreed to a one-year deal at $652,000.
- March 9, 2017: The Cubs announced that they have agreed to contract terms with Kris, who reportedly signed a $1.05 million contract for 2017, setting a record deal for a second-year player.