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.
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.
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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.”http://shop.nbcsports.com/NBC_Chicago_Cubs/Mens_Majestic_Kris_Bryant_White_Chicago_Cubs_Cool_Base_Player_Jersey/partnerid/13747