Four cameras staked out a spot in front of Kris Bryant’s locker in the Colorado Rockies clubhouse, a sight that was hard for him to miss as he approached after pregame batting practice.
The Chicago Cubs’ four-game series against the Rockies isn’t Bryant’s first time facing his former team with which he earned every notable personal and team accolade a big-leaguer can achieve. No, that came in early August after Bryant was sent to the San Francisco Giants as part of one-third of the Cubs’ opening-day roster being traded at the deadline.
“I enjoyed my time in Chicago, but I don’t know if it warrants a press conference every time I play them,” a smiling Bryant said before Thursday’s series opener at Coors Field.
As Bryant embarks on the next chapter of his career in Colorado, he isn’t forgetting his past.
“I don’t know if that chapter will ever close until I’m done playing baseball because I rely on a lot of what I went through there to make me who I am now and help me in the future with the guys here,” Bryant said. “So I’m not ever going to close that chapter because I had a lot of fun there.”
The Rockies in March gave Bryant a seven-year, $182 million contract with a no-trade clause. Testing free agency yielded Bryant the big deal he showed he was worth during his seven seasons with the Cubs.
“It doesn’t feel like I thought it would feel, like, I’m still like I was before I got traded or signed a contract, mentally or just competition-wise,” Bryant said. “But I can fall back on the fact that I know where I’m going to be and I don’t have to hear any rumors or any of that. So there’s a peace in that.”
Bryant was diplomatic when he spoke in the visitors’ dugout at Wrigley Field in September about whether an offseason reunion with the Cubs was still possible post-trade to the Giants. He said the things Cubs fans wanted to hear, keeping alive a modicum of hope Bryant could return in the offseason He indicated nothing would be ruled out, and, it turns out, he indeed meant that. Bryant stated Thursday there were “very preliminary talks” with the Cubs on “shorter-term stuff.”
His focus now is on getting the Rockies into the postseason, and his foundation with the Cubs will play a part in that.
“It’s just a part of me and it’s part of who I am,” Bryant said. “It’s part of why I’m able to be in the position that I am today, and there’s a lot of gratefulness and thanks to be had all around. … A special time in my life, and I won’t ever forget it.”
There won’t be weren’t many familiar faces when Bryant looks across to the visitors’ dugout during the four-game series at Coors Field. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks, catcher Willson Contreras, outfielder Jason Heyward and manager David Ross are his only teammates remaining on the Cubs from the 2016 championship team. Bryant said he always knew Ross would make a great manager and is very happy for his success, though he couldn’t pass up a chance to rib Ross.
“I mean, it’s hard to see him as a manager because I just think back to ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ ‘Saturday Night Live,’ looking like a fool,” Bryant said. “But a really good friend of mine, and he’s always been in my corner, and I’m always going to be in his corner — just not when we’re playing each other.”
When informed Bryant had mentioned his stint on “Dancing with the Stars,” Ross joked, “I’m going to kill him.”
Ross, though, has Bryant to thank for his Instagram account (GrandpaRossy_3), which has more than 451,000 followers. One night during 2016 spring training, Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Dexter Fowler were talking about Instagram while at dinner with Ross, who was out of the loop on the social media site. Bryant told him he needed to have Instagram. Ross arrived in the clubhouse the next morning, and Bryant alerted him to the “Grandpa Rossy” Instagram account he started for the veteran catcher.
Ross replied: “Why the hell do I need grandpa? I’m still playing.”
Ross appreciates those memories and everything he witnessed Bryant handle from the pressure and expectations that surrounded him ever since the Cubs drafted him with the No. 2 pick in 2013.
“I see the human side a little bit more than like the production side — I mean obviously his numbers you guys get to see and can judge that,” Ross said. “But what I see is a guy who cares a lot about how things are perceived, how his teammates feel about him, how he’s viewed publicly. He cares a lot about being a really good baseball player and he’s a good family guy.”
Bryant’s legacy with the Cubs goes beyond what happened on the field. Bryant lost his grievance against the Cubs in January 2020 after an arbiter ruled against him gaining an extra year of service time. The decision came four years after Bryant filed his grievance, which came after winning National League Rookie of the Year in 2015. That year the Cubs kept Bryant in the minors to start the season for just 12 days at Triple A to work on his defense, as then-President Theo Epstein explained why Bryant was not part of the opening-day roster.
The new collective bargaining agreement addresses the service-time manipulation Bryant faced in two ways. The top-two finishers for rookie of the year in each league receive a full year of service time, regardless of when they were called up. And teams that promote their top prospects to the opening-day roster can be eligible to receive draft-pick compensation if the player finishes in the top threefor ROY or top five for the MVP or Cy Young Award.
Bryant understood he likely wouldn’t win his grievance, knowing it was a hard case to prove, but he’s happy changes have been implemented.
“I’m just a little disappointed I didn’t get a rule; (Shohei) Ohtani got a rule, I didn’t get a rule,” Bryant said. “Jokes aside, going through that process obviously wasn’t fun. A lot of media attention on it, and I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with it the whole time. But I knew that I had the best case for changing the way the system is run, and I felt that I needed to take it upon myself to do that for everybody.
“With all the attention and the negativity surrounding it, it was worth it.”
Bryant wants to do for the Rockies what players such as Ben Zobrist, Jon Lester and John Lackey did for him and the other younger Cubs en route to ultimately winning the 2016 World Series title.
“I really want to embrace that opportunity I have here to do that,” Bryant said.
Source: Berkshire mont