Cubs

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

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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.”

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Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Live from Wrigley it's Cubs Authentic Fan Night

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Live from Wrigley it's Cubs Authentic Fan Night

Ozzie Guillen and Doug Glanville join Leila Rahimi to talk all things Chicago baseball as the Cubs take on the Braves and the White Sox look to get a win in Boston.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: