Cubs

The wait is over: Kris Bryant arrives at Wrigley Field

kris-bryant-0417.png

The wait is over: Kris Bryant arrives at Wrigley Field

The wait is over.

Kris Bryant is a Chicago Cub.

The day was coming, that was common knowledge. But now that it’s here, it’s all sinking in for everyone who was waiting — for Bryant, for the Cubs, for Cubs fans — and the excitement is at an all-time high.

That’s not just for the billboard erectors across from Wrigley Field or the legion of fans hailing Bryant as the franchise’s savior, perhaps already planning for the day a No. 17 flag waves from one of the foul poles. The excitement is at an all-time high for Bryant, too.

He’s in the major leagues. Call it a dream come true.

“The time of my life, really. I can’t really put into words how good of a feeling this is to work for this your whole life and finally get that chance,” Bryant said in front of a horde of media members Friday. “But I think the journey’s just starting. This isn’t where I want to end. I want to win a lot of games and win for the Cubs, and I think this is a good starting point.”

[MORE CUBS: Worth the wait: Cubs promote Kris Bryant for Wrigley Field debut]

Bryant’s running on pure adrenaline right now. He only got three hours of sleep following Triple-A Iowa's game Thursday night — in which, of course, Bryant homered — the news he was going to the bigs and the afternoon start against the San Diego Padres on the North Side.

After Iowa manager Marty Pevey slipped the big news into a conversation about the height of foul poles in the minors, Bryant called his parents.

“That was a day I was looking forward to,” Bryant said. “Called my mom first, actually, because my dad was doing hitting lessons. She was more shocked. We really didn’t know when it would happen. I’m sure when they got the time to reflect on it, there was probably tears of joy. I know my dad was crying, I’ve never seen my dad cry before. It’s something that we’ve been working for my whole life, 17 years, and the day is here and I’m really just trying to enjoy the moment. Whether it’s a good game, bad game, whatever happens out there, I’m here to enjoy this day and enjoy it with my family.

“If you can imagine your dreams coming true all in one moment, and you get to tell the people that are closest to you, that’s a pretty special feeling, and I wish everyone could experience that.”

[MORE CUBS: Did you know there is a Kris Bryant song?]

With Bryant’s arrival in Chicago, the hype gets cranked up to 11. For a guy who, as Cubs president Theo Epstein described it, dominated at every level he’s played at, the expectations are enormous among Cubs fans.

But Bryant’s not really paying attention to that. His status as savior isn’t something he’s worried about. The fact he’s able to do that is quite impressive, and he talked about blocking out the distractions — and there will be many.

“For me, it’s kind of realizing why I play this game. It’s not because of the money or any of the fame. It’s because it’s fun and it’s because it’s a dream of mine. It’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” Bryant said. “I think when you have the right perspective in this game and in life, then things usually turn out the way you want it to. That’s the way I’ve been playing my whole career, and I think that’s the way I’ll continue to play.”

Epstein and Cubs manager Joe Maddon share Bryant’s take-it-easy approach, not getting caught up in the expectations everyone’s placing on this 23-year-old kid from Las Vegas.

[SHOP: Get your Kris Bryant jersey right here]

But can he really block it all out? We’ll find out soon enough. But from what he said Friday, it sounds like he's already an expert in handling major-league hype, even if he hasn’t seen a major-league pitch.

“There’s no pressure in this game. You let pressure creep in, you’re not having fun. And I play this game because it’s fun,” Bryant said. “Who knows what the future holds for me? I just know I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I can and work to get better every day. I’ve been doing that my whole life and things have turned out the way I want it to in this game. But when you start putting expectations that are kind of way out there, you kind of lose sight of what’s really important in this game. I think I’m grounded enough to realize what I need to do, and that’s go play hard. That’s what Joe told me today. He said, ‘Forget about expectations. All I want you to do is go out there, show up on time, play hard and that’s all I can ask from you.’”

So as Wrigleyville becomes enveloped in Bryant buzz, realize this: the Cubs are 5-3, a first-place team after just a fraction of the schedule, but a first-place team nonetheless. And now here comes the No. 1 prospect in baseball. The bleachers might still feature more hardhats than ball caps. The bathroom situation might still be less than ideal.

But Kris Bryant is in the house. And that means, for the moment, everything’s coming up Cubs.

“As a baseball player, that’s what you want: to play for an organization that wants to win,” Bryant said. “Everything seems to be pointing in the right direction, and I couldn’t be more excited to step into a team that’s — I think we’re in first place now. That’s pretty cool. That’s what you want to do. You play this game to win, beat the opponent and hopefully win a World Series. I’m here to do everything I can to help the Cubs do that.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa is heating up, but even a red-hot Sosa doesn't automatically equal wins for the Cubs.

Slammin' Sammy notched his first multi-homer game in 1998 in a 9-5 loss to Kevin Millwood and the Atlanta Braves. Sosa drove in 4 of the Cubs' 5 runs on a solo shot in the 4th inning and a three-run shot in the 8th. 

Sosa tallied 830 feet of homers in the game, with his first blast going 410 feet and the second shot measured at 420 feet.

The big game bumped Sosa's overall season slash line to .337/.411/.551 (.962 OPS) with 11 homers and 35 RBI.

Fun fact: Mickey Morandini hit second for the Cubs in this game and went 4-for-4, but somehow only scored one run despite hitting just in front of Sosa all game. That's because Morandini was caught stealing to end the 3rd inning, leaving Sosa to lead off the 4th inning with a solo blast.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

maddon_stl.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Friedell (ESPN.com) and Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Welington Castillo’s 80-game PED suspension, the Cubs struggles and if Joe Maddon could be on the hot seat if the Cubs somehow miss the playoffs in 2018.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: