CINCINNATI — Kris Bryant wasn't the only one who had a dream come true by participating in the Home Run Derby on Monday night.
Mike Bryant — Kris' dad — had been waiting for this moment for 35 years.
Kris enlisted Mike as his personal pitcher during his first Home Run Derby appearance, the first time Mike got to enjoy the life of a big-leaguer. It was just the latest step in a whirlwind year for the Bryant family.
From Kris' big-league debut April 17 at Wrigley Field to his first All-Star selection to Monday's Home Run Derby, it's almost too much for Mike to handle.
The elder Bryant had to hold back tears in the locker room after the Derby, some two hours after he threw his last pitch to his son.
"Right now, I feel so mentally drained," Mike said. "It was incredible. ... It's a roller coaster of emotions. He's on a roller coaster of emotions and he's handling it. I'm at home, watching every pitch. You know, this is the big leagues now."
Kris was knocked out in the first round of the Home Run Derby, hitting nine homers to Albert Pujols' 10.
But for Kris, he didn't mind the result.
"I didn't care if I won or lost or how many homers I hit," Kris said. "It was more of the experience and enjoying [it with my dad]. ... It was great. I wouldn't trade that for anything. Just getting to experience that with him.
"I know he had a great time, too. Just to see my dad out there having a blast put a smile on my face.
"He's a big part of my success and a big part of who I am. Having him out there was icing on the cake, really."
Mike admitted he had some trouble calming down the nerves while pitching, struggling to find a way to slow his heart rate down and breathe. Kris, on the other hand, "doesn't get nervous," his dad says.
"That's bucket list stuff right there," Mike said. "We talked about this when he signed, like, 'Kris, I know it's a little premature, but if you ever make the big leagues and you become an All-Star and you get invited to the Home Run Derby, I want to pitch to you.'
"He said, 'Of course, Dad. You've been throwing to me all my life.' I did OK out there and he did the best he could with the way I was pitching him. It was OK, but there's better BP pitchers than me."
Before he started throwing to Kris, Mike went behind the mound and drew initials in the grass of an old college baseball teammate who passed away recently (just a week after seeing Kris play in New York).
"I was taken in that moment, looking up at all 50,000 eyes thinking, 'Man, so this is what it's like to stand out there on the field and watch that many people watch you perform,'" Mike said.
Mike was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the ninth round of the 1980 MLB Draft and spent two years playing in A-ball before being released.
As a guy who doesn't want to leave the field — "I can't think of a place I'd rather be than be at the ballpark for eight hours" — Mike never got to realize his dream of playing in the big leagues.
Now, he can live through Kris' experiences.
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"I like to say when he made it, I made it," Mike said. "Now I'm going through everything that he's going through and that I didn't get to experience as a minor-leaguer and I never got there.
"So I'm going through it with him and I'm too old for this. This roller coaster, I can't handle it. Kris handles it. He's right there, he stays right in the middle.
"I've been blessed and lucky to have a kid like that and coach him like that."
Mike said the reward is even greater now that Kris is fulfilling his dreams of playing in the majors.
"You know what, I wish that for every parent, to be able to say that," Mike said. "It is better. The disappointment that I went through when I got cut and I was sent home, I didn't want him to have to go through that.
"So it is better. A whole lot better."