CLEVELAND - The World Series isn't over yet, but the awards are already rolling in for the Cubs.
Kris Bryant was named the Hank Aaron Award winner Wednesday evening, an accolade for the best hitter in each league. Aaron was on hand at the World Series in Cleveland to hand the award to Bryant and American League recipient David Ortiz, the now-retired Boston Red Sox legend.
"I want to thank all the fans and everyone who supported me for this award," Bryant said. "It's truly an honor to be up here with two of the best baseball players to ever play this game. I grew up watching Big Papi on the Red Sox get to this point and win a World Series, and hopefully I can do that here.
To accept an award with one of the best baseball players ever with [Hank Aaron's] name on it is a true honor for me, so thank you."
Bryant led the National League with 121 runs scored while also slugging 39 homers and driving in 102 runs. He hit .292 with a .385 on-base percentage and .554 slugging percentage (for a .939 OPS).
“Well, it’s ‘Hammerin’ KB,’” manager Joe Maddon said. “Just be a young player in KB’s shoes, and to win that award and then have that particular man present it to you, it’s impressive. It’s very impressive at a young age to be considered and then win it. There’s a lot of great competition out there.
“An award like this for KB could absolutely galvanize his thoughts about himself as a Major League Baseball player. It’s a great achievement for him. I’m very happy for him. And I know he will humbly accept it in the right way.”
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After winning Rookie of the Year honors last season, Bryant may also be in line for the NL MVP this year as the anchor of a 103-win Cubs team.
"Kris, I watched him all year," Aaron said. "And I must say without any pun intended, that the Cubs are my favorite, of course. And the reason for that is because my friend who is no longer here, Mr. Ernie Banks. He was an idol of mine. I loved him, and I'm sure wherever he is today, he is smiling in his grave.
"I just want to say that I am smiling with him. I just wish that he could be here to play one more game, as he always said."
Josh Donaldson was the American League winner last season while Bryce Harper took home the NL honors.
Bryant is the second Cubs player to win the award after Sammy Sosa in 1999 (the first ever Hank Aaron Award). That season, Sosa hit 63 homers with 141 RBI, 114 rusn and a 1.002 OPS.