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."

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

With the Milwaukee Brewers about to kick off the NLCS, many Cubs fans and pundits have taken to comparing them to the 2015 Cubs.

At first glance, it's easy to see why — they're in the playoffs for the first time as something of an underdog and "surprise" team — but that's not the recent Cubs squad we should be comparing the 2018 Brewers to.

This Milwaukee team is a lot more like the 2016 Cubs.

Here's why:

1. They're not a surprise.

Nobody expected the 2015 Cubs to win 97 games and wind up in the NLCS. They were expected to compete very soon, but everything went right in a red-hot August, they rode Jake Arrieta's right arm to the NLDS and then toppled the Cardinals to get to the LCS, where they ran into the brick wall that was Matt Harvey and and the Mets pitching staff.

The 2018 Brewers are not — and should not be — a surprise. Anybody who was caught off guard by this team being so good hasn't been paying much attention. The Brewers were leading the NL Central in 2017 for much of the year before a late-season fade that coincided with the Cubs' late-season surge.

This Milwaukee squad was always supposed to be one of the top teams in the NL in 2018 and they really hit their groove in September to chase down the Cubs. Still, it took a Game 163 to force a changing of the guard atop the division.

2. They greatly improved expectations with a big free-agent OF signing over the winter.

The Cubs had Jason Heyward in between 2015 and '16. The Brewers had Lorenzo Cain.

Cain has provided quite a bit more offense in the first season of his 5-year, $80 million contract but both Cain and Heyward provided leadership in the clubhouse and elite defense in the outfield in the first years with their new teams.

3. The Brewers have the NL MVP.

This one's an easy comparison to make, though Cubs fans will hate it.

Christian Yelich is this season's NL MVP. Sorry, Javy Baez fans. "El Mago" had a great season, but it's impossible to give the award to anybody but Yelich.

Yelich winning the league's most coveted accolade would be another perfect tie-in to the 2016 Cubs, who had Kris Bryant take home NL MVP.

4. They have a dominant LHP out of the bullpen.

Josh Hader has been doing his best Aroldis Chapman impression in 2018 as an absolutely dominant southpaw out of the bullpen. Unlike Chapman, Hader's spent all season with the Brewers, but like Chapman in '16, Hader will be leaned on heavily for multiple innings throughout the rest of the playoffs.

5. They picked up some valuable in-season assets.

The 2016 Cubs dealt for Chapman, but they also traded for reliever Joe Smith and called up Willson Contreras in the middle of the year, who provided a spark for the offense.

The 2018 Brewers have acquired plenty of valuable assets along the way this season from Mike Moustakas to Jonathan Schoop to Erik Kratz (more on him later) to Gio Gonzalez. But one of their most important additions (especially in October) was the promotion of top prospect Corbin Burnes, a flame-throwing right-hander who posted a 2.61 ERA in 30 regular-season games and allowed only 1 hit in 4 shutout innings in the DS.

6. They're on a mission with a chip on their shoulder.

The 2015 Cubs had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder as they attempted to take down the divisional powerhouse that was the St. Louis Cardinals. But again, they were a surprise contender - even within that clubhouse (especially early in 2015). But after falling short in the NLCS, the Cubs retooled over the winter and came back with one goal in mind - to win the World Series.

It was a goal they accomplished. We'll see if the Brewers will be able to do the same, but they certainly came to play in 2018 with a chip on their shoulder and the ultimate goal of winning the final MLB game of the year.

The Brewers didn't lead the division from Day 1 and weren't able to coast into October, but they still wound up with homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

7. They have journeyman catcher who is winning over fans' hearts.

This is a fun one.

The 2016 Cubs had David "Grandpa" Rossy who still elicts deafening cheers whenever he's shown on the giant video board at Wrigley Field. The 2018 Brewers have Kratz, who has become a fan favorite recently and was mic'd up for the final out of the NLDS.

Ross was 39 when he helped lead the Cubs to the 2016 World Series and Chicago was his eighth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey. Kratz is 38 and on his ninth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey.

In fact, Ross and Kratz are so intertwined, they've already been compared to each other by MLB.com.

But the major difference is Kratz has zero postseason playing experience until a week ago. Will he be able to ride off into the sunset with a championship ring on his finger the way Ross did?

We'll have an answer to that over the next few weeks in the final chapter of the Brewers' 2018 season, though Cubs fans surely wouldn't be too happy to see their division rivals celebrating with a World Series parade just 90 minutes north of Wrigley Field.

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

The Cubs just lost one coach with hitting coach Chili Davis getting fired. Another opening on Joe Maddon's coaching staff could also open up.

According to report from MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed with the Rangers on Thursday.

Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler was the first candidate the club interviewed, but Hyde and Astros bench coach Joe Espada were also interviewed.

The 45-year-old Hyde has been with the Cubs since 2014. He was a bench coach in 2014 under Rick Renteria before moving to first base coach from 2015-17. This past season he moved back to his original role as bench coach.

He played four seasons in the minors for the White Sox.

The Rangers job opened up when Jeff Banister was fired on Sept. 21. Banister won AL Manager of the Year in 2015 and guided the Rangers to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016, but couldn't get out of the ALDS either year. A 78-84 season in 2017 was followed by an even worse 2018, which led to his firing late this season.