Cubs

Cubs: Home Run Derby an 'emotional roller coaster' for Bryant family

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Cubs: Home Run Derby an 'emotional roller coaster' for Bryant family

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.

[MORE: Linked forever, All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez and Anthony Rizzo thriving]

"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.

[RELATED: Cubs' Anthony Rizzo gets start at DH in All-Star Game]

"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.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Kris Bryant jersey here]

"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."

Anthony Rizzo is ready to be the leading man 

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo is ready to be the leading man 

When discussing his unconventional lineup choices, Joe Maddon had this to say, "It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating.....So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

And it is hard to blame Maddon for letting his experiment ride out longer.

Via our Chris Kamka, Rizzo has hit in the leadoff spot seven times this season. In those seven plate appearances he has a single, double, triple (July 21), home run, walk, hit by pitch and a groundout. Rizzo’s numbers as a leadoff hitter are staggering:

And it appears the Cubs agree.

After their 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, Ben Zobrist joked that Rizzo is the “self proclaimed greatest leadoff hitter...”. And while on paper, having Zobrist bat fourth in the order and Rizzo lead off seems contradictory, the move has definitely energized the offense. Immediately following all the lineup shuffling, the Cubs reeled off four straight wins before the Cardinals 18-run, 18-hit explosion, but even in that game Rizzo did draw a base by HBP.

And sure enough, in Saturday’s game, there was Rizzo, dominating to the tune of three walks and a triple. There is no telling if Maddon will continue to keep him in the leadoff spot. The move was originally made to help Rizzo get his groove back, which if Saturday’s win was any indication, he has.

But with Jason Heyward having a great offensive season, Jesse Chavez looking good in his Cubs debut (two clean innings with one strikeout) and Baez continuing his MVP-like play, Cubs fans should be as optimistic as one certain fan at Wrigley Field.

Cubs infielder Ryan Court had a special night in Iowa

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USA TODAY

Cubs infielder Ryan Court had a special night in Iowa

The farm system doesn't have the big names it once did, as the majority of the top prospects have graduated to the Major League roster, but that doesn't mean the minor league clubs aren't having fun. 

Take 29-year-old Ryan Court, a minor league infielder who has bounced around from Arizona and Boston's systems and found a home this year with the Cubs triple-A affiliate in Des Moines, IA. Court has had a solid season in Iowa, slashing .272/.347/.410 in 74 games, but might have had his finest game as I-Cub Friday night against the New Orleans Baby Cakes. 

Court came up in the 8th inning last night needing just a triple to hit for the cycle, but his club was on the verge of taking the lead in the after scoring three runs prior to his at-bat.

With Bote on 1st, the game tied at 8 runs apiece, Court placed a ball in front of the right fielder who overplayed the ball and allowed Bote to score from first and Court to scamper to third to complete the cycle. 

The I-Cubs would tack on another run to polish off a 5-run 8th inning and take home the win in a 10-8 victory over the Baby Cakes, and according to Des Moines Register's Tommy Birch, it was the first time in two decades an Iowa player has hit for the cycle. 

It's unlikely Ryan Court will make his way to the big leagues with the Cubs already carrying plenty of infielders, but for one night he played the hero and got his team the win, finishing the night 4-5 with 2 RBI, 4 runs scored and one massive smile on his face.