Kris Bryant thinks of the first time he hit a home run, rounding third base and his dad lifting him up.
“I don’t even touch home plate,” Bryant recounted on the Red Line Radio podcast. “But that’s the kind of joy that you’ve got to find.”
He said in the interview, which aired Thursday, that during the 2020 season, he didn’t always have that joy.
It’s no secret that Bryant struggled at the plate in the shortened season. Plagued with injuries, Bryant only had 147 plate appearances, compared to his 634 plate appearances in 2019. Just a year after that All-Star season, Bryant’s batting average sunk to .206 in 2020.
As for his thoughts on all the online criticism he was getting, after two home runs in the Cubs’ final series of the season, Bryant famously had this to say about internet trolls:
“I don’t give a s***.”
So, it made sense that when asked on Red Line Radio if he was still having fun -- considering all the noise surrounding him and the Cubs this offseason -- Bryant said: “At times, no. It really got to me sometimes, the stuff I was hearing.”
He compared it to 2018 when he caught wind of the first trade rumors about him. And he had to remind himself why he first started playing the game and of the feeling of that first home run.
This offseason, Bryant said, he’s successfully tuned out baseball-related chatter, finding “a nice peace of mind” in his workouts.
He did, of course, hear about longtime teammates Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber signing with the Nationals. Those three had played together since 2015, Bryant and Schwarber’s rookie season.
“There are certain things that are sad,” Bryant said. “All I’ve ever known is Jon Lester taking the mound, lefty, he’s going to be mad every fifth day, but he’s going to compete. And he’s going to throw cutters inside, and I’ve got to be ready at third base, and he’s going to get mad at me if I don’t make a play because he’s a competitor, he wants to win. And certain things, yeah, I’m going to miss that.
“I’m going to miss Schwarbs running out to left field and dancing for the fans before the game starts. Those are the types of things -- we grew up with that, with the team. But sometimes things just go a different way. I’m just thankful for the time that we’ve had together, those six years, a long time and some of the best of my life.”
Bryant’s name has been attached to plenty of trade rumors again this offseason. He could be the next member of the championship core to leave Chicago. But he also has a memory he knows he can conjure up to put things back in perspective.