Bryant brimming with confidence as Cubs introduce No. 2 pick

Bryant brimming with confidence as Cubs introduce No. 2 pick

July 12, 2013, 6:00 pm
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Tony Andracki

Kris Bryant finished a practice swing, turned toward Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, flashed a wide smile and asked, 'How do I look?'

The No. 2 pick in this year's MLB Draft seemed right at home Friday as he got his first taste of Wrigley Field and experienced what it means to be a Cub.

That smile didn't leave Bryant's face all day as he and the Cubs made his signing official in front of Bryant's girlfriend and family, as well as a slew of media members and most of the Cubs' front office.

Everybody wanted to come out to see the newest member of "The Core."

"When you think of baseball, you think of the Chicago Cubs," the 21-year-old slugger said as he sat alongside team president Theo Epstein in his new Cubs jersey. "I'm blessed to be a part of this organization. There's a lot of tradition. Just walking through Wrigley, you see the bleachers in left field, the ivy. It's an old ballpark, but it has a lot of character.

"Hopefully I can play this game a long time. I'm excited to get my journey started."

[MORE: Why the Cubs bet on Bryant and against Gray]

When the Cubs were on the clock with the second overall pick, many projected they would take Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray and his 100 mph fastball. But the Cubs didn't want to pass up on Bryant and his power that led to an NCAA-best 31 homers and an .820 slugging percentage in just 62 games during his junior season at the University of San Diego.

Throughout his successful career, Epstein has placed an emphasis on drafting and acquiring high-character players, guys that are more than just the numbers on the back of their baseball card.

"First and foremost, he's a really good kid, as we knew," Epstein said Friday. "Very polished. He handled what can be an intimidating day with a lot of poise.

"It's really cool to see how the family is. The mom was tearing up during the press conference. That's what this is all about. It's a long journey to become a professional and he deserves a special day. And now this is the start of another journey to get where he wants to be."

In the build-up to the draft, Epstein and Cubs scouts left no stone unturned when it came to Bryant.

"They totally vetted him. He was vetted more than the President," Mike Bryant, Kris' dad, joked. "They talked to his high school math teacher, his English teacher, all his coaches in high school, all his coaches at San Diego, his teachers at San Diego, athletic administrators, sports information directors.

"They knew what they were doing. They definitely did their job. I'm really proud of that."

Bryant, who reportedly had a 4.78 GPA in high school and was invited to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship, impressed the Cubs with his confidence during a season in which he led the nation in homers, slugging percentage, runs and walks.

[WATCH: Bryant takes batting practice at Wrigley]

"I expect a lot out of myself," Bryant said. "I probably put higher expectations on myself than most people do. I go out there every day and expect to do great.

"I wasn't shocked at all [at the lofty home run total]. I know that I have the talent to do great things on the field. I've been blessed with great skill in this game."

Mike Bryant attributes his son's success during Kris' junior season to adapting to the breaking ball and hitting off-speed pitches with more authority. When told Kris said on draft day he felt he was ready to play in the major leagues right now, Mike wasn't surprised.

"That's a confidence thing," Mike said. "I'm glad that was taken in its context, because that can come off as being brash and that's not Kris. He's a totally humble person."

[MORE: Cubs believe Bryant will be ready for impact]

Bryant, a 6-foot-5 athlete who admitted he would play any position on the diamond, will start his Cubs career at third base and is headed to Arizona to shake the rust off after a layover between the college and professional seasons. The next step after that will be a trip to short-season Boise. 

Any move beyond that is uncertain, and Cubs manager Dale Sveum was cautiously optimistic when discussing Bryant's future.

"You can go on and on about player development," Sveum said. "It's vital to people's careers. Getting here really fast, it doesn't always work out that way."

Mike Bryant spent two years in the Red Sox organization learning from the likes of Ted Williams and now teaches hitting out of his Las Vegas home while working on a book about "blue-collar baseball." He isn't worried about his son's ability to adapt to professional baseball.

"He really takes instruction well," Mike said. "When he jumps on something, he can adjust in a game. Sometimes, from pitch-to-pitch. Definitely from at bat-to-at bat.

"But he could go out there and go 3-for-45. That happens. Guys have to go through that sometimes. Let's face it, pitchers are always ahead of the hitters. That's the game. They win 70, 80 percent of the time and get you out.

[RELATED: Almora gets a feel for Wrigley]

"Being able to deal with that failure is what separates you from the guys that can't play in the major leagues. He's going to get every opportunity to do that. He's earned it. He's a No. 2 pick for a reason. He's demonstrated that ability to [rise above failure.]

"He's a mature young man with talent and a great work ethic. He's going to do whatever he can to help this team win a World Series. I know that sounds cliche, but that comes from the heart."