CHICAGO – Kris Bryant could barely get through his first moments in a Cubs jersey before his mother, Susie, began to cry.
They were happy tears as the Cubs introduced Bryant, their first-round draft pick, at Wrigley Field before Friday’s game against the Cardinals. Susie Bryant said it was hard to put into words what it meant to watch her youngest son put on a Cubs jersey.
Bryant, who received a $6.7 million signing bonus, immediately becomes one of the Cubs’ top prospects, joining a talented group of position players. Friday was the deadline to sign their draft picks, and the Cubs ultimately signed 24, including 19 of their first 20.
“All I can say is I plan to go out there and do my best and help any team I plan on win a game, win a lot of games,” Bryant said. “I’m going to work hard – continue to get better each and every day on the field and off the field.”
Bryant, 21, took batting practice at Wrigley after being introduced, his possible future manager Dale Sveum delivering the pitches. He showed off his renowned power, depositing a few balls into the bleachers. Bryant also spent time on the field during the Cubs’ batting practice, which included stretching with the team and fielding some ground balls at third.
“He’s a very good kid, as we knew,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “He’s very polished and handled what could be an intimidating day with a lot of poise. Most importantly, it’s really cool to see how happy the family is. … That’s what it’s all about. It’s a long journey to become a professional, and he deserves a special day. Now it’s the start of a special journey to get where he wants to be.”
Bryant isn’t worried about switching to wood bats and how that may affect his power. Since composite bats were introduced in the college game two years ago, they more closely resemble wood bats than the notorious pinging aluminum bats that made it difficult to access a player’s true power.
“I’ve been using wood bats a long time now,” Bryant said. “I think baseball’s good nowadays because there are a lot of scout teams in high school that make you use wood bats.”
Bryant will head out to Arizona to play in the Rookie League and shake of the rust from the layoff after his college season at the University of San Diego ended. Once he gets in some work at Mesa, Bryant will head to Class-A (Short Season) Boise. Because Bryant has three years of college baseball experience, he will likely get an opportunity to move up from Boise before the season ends.
While most players head to Class-A Kane County after Boise, Bryant could bypass the Cougars and head straight to Class-A Advanced Daytona. Fellow prospect Jeimer Candelario, 19, is Kane County’s starting third baseman, and the Cubs would be hesitant to alter Candelario’s player development plan, forcing him to change positions or promote him to Daytona before he’s ready. But Bryant isn’t worried about how quickly he will reach Wrigley, only focused on getting back out on the field.
“I’m going to play wherever they tell me to play,” Bryant said. “I realize that may be a cliché answer, but it’s the truth. Any ballplayer should listen to their coach. I’m going to go out there, and if it’s at third base I’m going to play as hard as I can. Outfield, first base, pitcher, I’ll play as hard as I can.”