The Cubs aren’t playing baseball Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a busy baseball day for Kris Bryant.
I had the opportunity to talk to the reigning National League MVP Tuesday morning courtesy of the Topps Company, as Kris is promoting their “Bunt 17” baseball card app, where you can download cards, “open” them as if you were opening a pack, and then pile up “points” based on who you get in each pack in your daily lineup, based on how those players do in real games.
As you probably know from seeing him play and in various other photoshoots, Kris is always smiling. Here’s the entire interview.
BCB: Last night was a pretty long night. What do you guys do during a long rain delay like that?
KB: A lot of us just sit at our lockers. I think rain delays at the beginning of the game are a little easier because you can still find that adrenaline at the beginning of the game. It’s tough, but especially with our clubhouse now you can find a lot to do. You can get lost, take a nap, there’s plenty of areas to go. For me, I just sit at my locker, hang out.
BCB: Once the delay ended and they started the banner ceremony, what kinds of emotions were going through your mind as you were walking out and raising the flag?
KB: I was just thinking back to last year, specifically the World Series and everything we went through there. It was loud! It kind of felt like a playoff game there at the beginning, but I was thinking about all we went through to get to this point, raising the flag, and we’ll get the rings tomorrow, so it’s an exciting time for us.
BCB: I’ve heard a little bit about the rings, that they’re supposed to have 108 diamonds. Do you know anything else about them?
KB: I’ve seen some early pictures. I don’t know if they actually chose what was on the pictures they sent us, but what I know is it’s going to be really big, really shiny, which is completely understandable given the fact that it’s been so long. We’re really looking forward to tomorrow.
BCB: You have your marketing thing with Anthony Rizzo, Bryzzo & Co. Do the two of you hang out together after games? Tell me more about your friendship with him.
KB: Outside the field we’ll go to dinner occasionally, but we also do a good job of supporting one another. When I see that he’s not doing too good, I try to find a way to pick him up and he does the same for me. But it’s not just me and him. Everyone in the clubhouse has their ways of helping each other, but Anthony was one of the first guys that I leaned on in my first spring training and he kind of took me under his wing, so he’s probably the guy I’ve been closest to.
BCB: From a fan standpoint a lot of people look at him as kind of a team leader. Do you guys also feel that way about him?
KB: He’s been the guy who’s been here the longest, he was here when the team wasn’t good. He’s the team leader, he calls himself “the young veteran” even though he’s just 27 years old. He has a way about him to just get everybody going and he learned a lot from Rossy last year and now he’s kind of taking over his role in terms of being the guy in the clubhouse who gets us ready for the games.
BCB: Speaking of David Ross, they ran his “Dancing With The Stars” video during the rain delay. What was it like watching that?
KB: I didn’t actually get a chance to see most of it, I walked out near the end when they were giving out the scores. I was sitting there thinking, “This has never happened.” It’s not something that a lot of teams do for their previous players, it’s awesome to see that the Cubs are willing to do that even though he’s not playing anymore. I’m looking forward to watching the video later. He’s been doing a really good job, looks like he’s having a lot of fun. He’s deserved all of this attention that he’s getting right now.
BCB: You’ve seen some of the changes that were made to the ballpark over the winter. What did you think about the plaza and the bullpens and other things you’ve seen?
KB: The plaza’s awesome. We drove by it when we got back from Milwaukee a couple of days ago. It looks like an awesome place to hang out before a game. I can’t wait to see the hotel, too. It kind of makes the energy in the area even greater than it already is. I like the bullpens moving. I know there’s history to it with them being there for so long but I think it takes away the risk for injury down the line with the possibility of Kyle Schwarber running over there with a mound there. That’s dangerous! You saw that play last night early in the game, Ben Zobrist caught a ball down the line and that was the first thing that came to my mind, there’s no bullpen there. It’ll take some time to get used to, but I’m liking all the changes.
BCB: Wanted to ask you a few things about how you prepare for games, researching individual pitchers you’re going to face, and your game plans.
KB: The basis of it is, I study video. Obviously if you have history against a pitcher that makes it easier because you can see what you did well against him or how they pitch you in those situations. We have all the resources at our fingertips to get prepared for a game, but mostly for me it’s watching a lot of video and formulating an approach off that.
BCB: Every Cubs fan has watched the last out of the World Series many times. We can see a little smile on your face after you’ve thrown the ball. What was going through your mind right at that moment?
KB: Don’t mess up! (Laughter) That’s kind of the normal thought going through anybody’s head in that situation — don’t be the guy who messes this up! Thankfully, I didn’t, but there was so much going on. It was a slow developing play, where I had time to think about what I wanted to do with the ball, I didn’t know if I had a chance to get Michael Martinez at first, he’s a pretty quick runner. It ended up working out, I didn’t know if Mike Montgomery was going to come off the mound and get the ball or any of that, but there was so much going through my mind and I’m glad that’s over!
BCB: Once the ball got into Anthony’s glove and you knew you had won, what was it like to change that feeling from “in the game, focusing on the play” to now, all of a sudden, you are the champions?
KB: It’s a big sense of just relief, a big sigh, so much weight lifted off our shoulders, especially considering the circumstances, coming back from down three games to one, having to win those three games in a row. I don’t think many people really expected us to do that. For us, we were pretty confident, but overall it was just a big sense of relief. I think the word that really describes it is “Finally!” It happened. We knew it was going to happen sometime, and so crazy that it finally did happen.
BCB: You guys are still a very good team with a few changes and additions from last year. How are you approaching this year knowing that you have one championship under your belts, both for each game and for the year as a whole?
KB: I think experiencing the whole postseason run and playing in Game 7 of the World Series definitely gives us more peace of mind in all the games we play now because we played in one of the most stressful games ever. There’s a lot to draw from, realizing that we did it, and our motivation comes from wanting to do it again because it was so much fun and a great thing to be a part of.
BCB: Tell me a bit about the Topps Bunt 17 app and how it works and how you feel about being involved.
KB: Topps is an awesome company for me to work with. The app is digital trading cards:
It’s cool. You can collect and trade them, which is something that’s cool to me. I have the app, I was playing with it and I think it’s something that will really take off and people are going to enjoy it.
BCB: Between playing in Chicago and on the road all summer, there are obviously a lot of demands on your time. What do you and Jessica do when you’re at home here in Chicago?
KB: There’s a lot of food around here that’s really good but we don’t really make our way out of our house too much. We’re definitely homebodies. We enjoy just turning on the TV. It’s kind of important to just get home and be a normal person.
BCB: What TV shows do you like?
KB: We’re watching “Homeland,” “Designated Survivor,” and “Friday Night Lights,” I think that’s my favorite, “Friday Night Lights.”
BCB: Lastly, if you weren’t a baseball player, what do you think you’d be doing?
KB: I have no clue! I’m so happy I’m a baseball player. It was a goal of mine ever since I started playing baseball, to play baseball for the rest of my life. I really set my sights on that and put all my motivation into it and I don’t think anything less than that would have been acceptable to me. And that’s something that continues to drive me still, just to be the best baseball player I can be so I can play it for as long as I can.
BCB: The work you’ve put in has obviously paid off in all the awards you’ve won and winning the World Series. Looking back, and obviously you’re young and have a long career ahead of you, what does that feel like?
KB: It feels pretty good to accomplish what I have this early and I think it’s important to look at it and be thankful for it and realize that not many people get to experience this. I do sit back and think about what I’ve done so far and it blows me away. I’ll continue to work even harder to sustain that but it’s important to be proud of what I’ve done so far.
Thanks to Kris for his time and candid answers, and of course the famous smile! Also many thanks to Ellie Eubank and Jessica Sciacchitano of Rogers & Cowan for their kind assistance in arranging the interview, and to Travis Miller of the Cubs for the photo at the top of this post.