Bryant has solid footing thanks to parents
Cubs prospect's father doesn't want to see his son rushed to big leagues
MESA, Ariz. -- The player who has been getting the most attention in Cubs camp is the one with the fewest professional at-bats, and his parents had no idea.
Kris Bryant, the second player selected overall in last June's First-Year Player Draft, has been the first player the national media targets whenever they stop by the Cubs' new facility. The third baseman, who led the nation with 31 home runs at the University of San Diego, certainly raised more interest when he homered in his first Cactus League at-bat.
The Cubs are rebuilding, and Bryant is projected as a key part of that process. The 22-year-old infielder has been on the fast track since he signed last August, going from the Rookie-level Arizona League to Class A Short-Season Boise to Class A Advanced Daytona, which won the Florida State League championship, to being named Most Valuable Player in the Arizona Fall League.
Yet he's incredibly low-key about what's happened.
"You have to pry it out of him," said Bryant's father, Mike.
Kris' parents, Mike and Sue, drove four hours from Las Vegas to watch their son play Sunday at Cubs Park. This is a short trip compared to some of the ones they've taken. The Bryants drove 10 hours to see Kris play in Boise and stayed five days. Mike still has video of Kris' first home run on his phone.
"We drive everywhere," Sue said.
"We're road warriors," Mike said.
They were surprised when told how much attention Kris has been getting.
"How do you prep someone for that?" Mike said. "Bascially, it's life lessons, how you treat people, how you want to be treated, and be respectful and just be yourself. Kris is big on being himself. He's not a scripted guy so that probably made it a whole lot easier for him to deal with the attention. He'll be honest with you and try to put the focus on his teammates, like, 'I don't deserve this. Maybe someday I hope to.'"
Kris Bryant isn't seeking the spotlight. He's in camp to learn.
"He's facing big league pitchers," Mike said. "He's here to soak it all up and learn. He's a sponge. Ever since Sue helped him with his homework, he'd soak up all the necessary info he needed to perform in school and in baseball. I think that's helping him a lot.
"I think the media understands who he is and they'll be a little more sympathetic because he doesn't run his mouth," Mike said. "He'll have moments when he doesn't perform. He'll have to handle that now."
Actually, Kris has proven he can deal with the low points, such as his first game at Boise when he went 0-for-5 and struck out all five times.
"That keeps you grounded," Sue said.
Kris did relay a message to his father recently from MLB Network's Peter Gammons, who remembered seeing Mike in high school in Boston. Mike was named to an All-Star team and went to the Boston Globe, where Gammons worked at that time, and saw the writer in the hallway.
Mike never made it to the big leagues. Kris is close. How close depends on who you ask. Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo joked about the media buzz surrounding the prospects in camp that include not just Bryant but Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.
"You guys are going to crown them the next Babe Ruth," Rizzo said.
Yes, there's been a lot of hype. Mike Bryant has heard people say his son is ready for the big leagues now.
"You read all that stuff," Mike said. "My feelings are, I know my son better than anybody in terms of what he can handle and what he can't handle. I've always thrown him into the fire -- throw him into the water, sink or swim, that type of thing. He's responded all his life.
"I'm not saying go ahead and do that [and promote him]," Mike said. "To be realistic, he's going to go down to the Minors and get a couple 300 at-bats to see where he stands. He's done that already in his short stint since he signed. I have all the confidence in the world in him that if you threw him in the fire, it'd take him a little bit to learn, but they worry. They don't want a kid to be crushed. I get that, too."
Overanxious Cubs fans may not want to hear this, but Kris' dad is willing to have his son delay his big league debut.
"Let him go to the Minors and work all the bugs out, get him prepared to contribute," Mike said. "There doesn't seem to be a hurry but there does seem to be a sense of radical urgency, too, where the Cubs are concerned -- they want to win. If he can help the team win, I think that's when [president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] and those guys say, 'All right, let's get him up here and give him a few weeks and let's see what he can do.'
"Good or bad, he'll handle it either way. If he has to go back down, he'll have to go back down. It's another part of the process. I always have him focus on the process, not the results."
Kris still has a year and three classes to take to complete his degree at San Diego. He's promised his mother that he'll get it.
"Hopefully, he'll find time," Mike said. "He can wait until he's 40."
Outside Cubs Park on Sunday, a fan was bragging that Bryant had broken a car window with one of his batting-practice home runs. A gray Mustang was in need of some repairs. Mike heard him.
"I know that guy," Mike said, not revealing that Kris is his son.
He'll probably ask Kris about it later.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.