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Bryant had goosebumps during memorable first day with Giants

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Kris Bryant celebrates

SAN FRANCISCO -- Kris Bryant knew this week was coming, but that didn't make it any easier.  When Bryant finally got the call from Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer, he was thrilled to find out that he was headed to San Francisco, his childhood team and first choice as rumors about a teardown in Chicago began to swirl. He hung up the phone and started walking toward the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park, a huge smile on his face. And then he saw hitting coach Anthony Iapoce.

Iapoce had been a minor league hitting coordinator when Bryant was taken second overall out of the University of San Diego in 2013. He helped the game's top prospect shoot to the big leagues in under two years, and he was at Wrigley Field when Bryant made a highly-anticipated debut. Bryant gave Iapoce a hug and saw that he had tears in his eyes.

"Man, you can't do that," Bryant said to his longtime coach. "You're going to make me cry."

Bryant started shedding his own tears, kicking off an emotional and extremely busy stretch that ended with him taking the field across the country exactly 48 hours later as the newest star for the best team in baseball. Bryant was the first one out on the field to warm up Sunday, and when the Giants came up in the bottom of the first inning of a 5-3 win, the No. 2 hitter was standing in the on-deck circle and getting loose a full minute before leadoff hitter LaMonte Wade Jr. emerged from the dugout. It wasn't hard to figure out why Bryant was so excited.

 

The 29-year-old has been the subject of trade rumors all season long, and he had identified the Giants as his ideal next home, not just because of the childhood ties and proximity to his Las Vegas home, but because of who they are. Bryant wanted to compete for a World Series title this fall, and as he faced the Giants last month, he correctly identified a group of grinders, a clubhouse not dealing with any egos. 

Hoyer had an unenviable task as he broke up the core of the 2016 Cubs championship team, but he seemed to do it the right way. Bryant watched as Anthony Rizzo went to New York, where he has family ties. Craig Kimbrel, who had family concerns, got to stay in Chicago with the White Sox. Javy Baez was sent to the Mets to play with close friend Francisco Lindor. 

When it was Bryant's turn, he thanked Hoyer. 

"I just told him, thank you for trading me to a team like this, because I want to go to a team that's winning and wants to win a World Series," Bryant said as he sat in the dugout at Oracle Park on Sunday morning. 

The first game surely did nothing but boost Bryant's belief in his new squad. The Giants beat the Astros for a second straight day, clinching a series win that followed one over the Dodgers. Most people around the game still rank those two as the most dangerous rosters in the big leagues, but the Giants keep proving they are equals, and they certainly are better than they were three days ago.

Bryant hit second in a deep lineup that still should get Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria and Tommy La Stella back. In his second at-bat in orange and black, he lined a homer into the bleachers. Oracle Park shook as he walked through the dugout, a big smile on his face as he tried to figure out what specific home run celebrations the Giants use.

"I've had some really special fan moments in my career that give me goosebumps, and that ranks up there pretty high," Bryant said. 

Bryant played third base Sunday, but that's not at all set in stone. He loves playing the outfield and manager Gabe Kapler is comfortable with Bryant in all three spots, plus first and third. He said Bryant likely will primarily hit second, but he can slide in anywhere from two through five depending on matchups. 

He is the perfect piece at the right time for the Giants, who can spend a couple of months selling Bryant and his family on staying long-term. That process started this weekend, when the Giants rolled out the red carpet, even filling the couple's hotel room with Giants gear and a No. 23 jersey for their young son. 

 
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Bryant got a standing ovation when introduced and another before his first at-bat. He even got cheers when he struck out on eight pitches in the bottom of the first. A couple of hours later he walked through the first of many handshake lines. 

"I just want to be here and help this team and do all I can," he said. "Going from one historic franchise to another, I feel super grateful. I don't know why I deserved this but it's been really cool for me to experience it so far."

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