How Kris Bryant handled the hype, earned respect in Cubs clubhouse


MILWAUKEE — The Cubs turning their clubhouse into a momentary mosh pit during the middle of the game shows how much they’ve welcomed Kris Bryant to The Show.

That’s how the Cubs responded to Bryant’s first career home run on Saturday night at Miller Park, emptying the dugout, giving him the silent treatment and making him take a few extra steps up the tunnel to celebrate with teammates.  

The party didn’t last long during a 12-4 blowout loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. But it’s telling how a team responds to a rookie who comes in with so much hype — and how he handles all the attention and the daily failure.  

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“You just try and make the kid’s transition as easy as possible, especially with all of the expectations and the outside noise surrounding him,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said Sunday. “We try and kind of dumb all that stuff down in the clubhouse, because to us, it really doesn’t mean that much. We all know how good he is. We know what he’s capable of.

“Those are the kind of things where I think Javy Baez got into a little bit of that and maybe it messed with him some. And that’s what we don’t want to have happen. We want guys to come up here, whether it’s 'Addie' (Addison Russell) or Bryant, and just blend in and be one of the guys.

“Once you can get over that transition, then it’s just a baseball game. It’s nine innings, just like it was anywhere else.”

Bryant brought some of this on himself. He put a smile on his face and a target on his back while authorizing super-agent Scott Boras to rip Cubs ownership during the service-time saga in spring training. 

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Baseball has an old-school code, too many unwritten rules and enough problems trying to attract casual fans and the younger generation. Anyone who gets his own adidas billboard across the street from the Wrigley Field marquee before his major-league debut — and shoots a Red Bull commercial with a goat while at Triple-A Iowa — will be under the microscope.

“I really just want to be another guy in the locker room,” Bryant said. “I’m just trying to help the team win. I don’t want to be bigger than anybody else here. I’m just here trying to help them out.”

Bryant found other ways to help the team during a home-run drought that stretched into his 21st game in a Cubs uniform, seeing 4.34 pitches per plate appearance, getting on base more than 40 percent of the time, making plays at third base and showing surprising speed on the bases.

“I never mentioned anything to him,” Anthony Rizzo said. “I’ve kind of been in those shoes before, so I’m sure he’s heard it from mom, dad, girlfriend, friends, brother, cousins. He’s hearing it from a thousand different angles. It’s good to get it out of the way.”

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Kris Bryant jersey]

Manager Joe Maddon thought Rizzo organized the walkout stunt. It certainly sounded like something Rizzo would do, but the All-Star first baseman gave credit to bench coach Dave Martinez. Arrieta called it his production, along with veteran catcher David Ross.   

Bryant isn’t a diva or a me-first guy. He’s a baseball gym rat. Teammates notice that.

“This is a great clubhouse,” Rizzo said. “You got guys like ‘Rossy’ who allow him to come in, (Jon) Lester. There’s no egos in here. (Bryant’s) one of the guys. He’s one of our friends now. And hopefully we play together for a long time.

“Some guys come in and get different treatment, but we have help in this clubhouse. We just want you to be you.”

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