Cubs: Unforgettable father-son moment for Mike and Kris Bryant


Cubs: Unforgettable father-son moment for Mike and Kris Bryant

The Cubs gave Mike and Kris Bryant an unforgettable father-son moment.

The emotions overwhelmed Mike on Thursday night when he heard the Cubs promoted Kris to The Show. Mike found out while giving a hitting lesson, sharing the ideas he learned from Ted Williams while playing minor-league ball for the Boston Red Sox, teaching what Kris absorbed so naturally as a kid.

While the Bryant family took a red-eye flight from Las Vegas – Mike couldn’t remember the last time he pulled an all-nighter – Kris left the Triple-A Iowa team in New Orleans to pursue their dream.

“I shed a few tears,” Mike said Friday at Wrigley Field. “My heart got heavy. I feel like I’m listening to a Tim McGraw or a Justin Moore country song. When they make you cry, that’s when you know they got you.”

Mike held court with reporters near the on-deck circle during batting practice as Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” blasted out of the old ballpark’s new sound system.

The Red Sox selected Mike in the ninth round of the 1980 draft out of UMass Lowell. He lasted two seasons, moved his family to Las Vegas and eventually sold his furniture business so he could spend more time coaching his kids.

Kris would grow up with a batting cage at his house and become a baseball gym rat. Another one of Mike’s students – Joey Gallo – is a power-hitting third baseman in the Texas Rangers organization and Baseball America’s No. 6 prospect heading into this season.

[RELATED: No bad blood between Cubs and Kris Bryant over service-time issue]

The memories came rushing back to Mike, how he hid out on a beach in Florida after the Red Sox cut him, the moments when he realized Kris had what it takes to play in the big leagues. Mike thought of what this would have meant to his parents as he spoke on the phone with his sister, Karen, on Thursday night.

“That’s what really hit me,” Mike said. “My sister (was) crying so hard. She visited both my mom and dad’s grave. It was 11 o’clock at night back in Massachusetts. She went over there and she called me when she got back. How deep is that right there?”

Mike then did the Sammy Sosa routine, blowing a kiss and looking up to the sky.

“That’s how deep that is,” Mike said.

[NBC SHOP: Get your Kris Bryant jersey right here!]

Mike is outgoing where Kris is reserved. Adidas gear covered Mike, who wore a blue polo shirt, black sweats and gray sneakers. The father has a bald head, a gray goatee and a big personality that embraces the “WORTH THE WAIT” billboard on Addison Street.

“For someone with less character, it would go to their head,” Mike said. “But you can see me – I’m kind of an animated guy. I brought my kid up to not be me. Because who wouldn’t like attention, right? Well, Kris walks that middle ground better than anybody.”

That balance of supreme confidence, emotional stability and just enough modesty explains why the Cubs believe Kris will be able to live up to the hype. An 0-for-4 afternoon with three strikeouts during a 5-4 loss to the San Diego Padres won’t change his DNA.

“He’s respectful,” Mike said. “He knows he has an obligation to speak to his fans through (the media). Just to see him handle that like an adult at 23 years old – with all these expectations on him – (is so impressive). I hope he hits four home runs. If he punches out four times, he’s going to be the same (guy) tomorrow.”

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.