Like Mike Trout, Kris Bryant leaning on family for support

Like Mike Trout, Kris Bryant leaning on family for support

July 12, 2013, 8:45 pm
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Tony Andracki

The comparisons between Mike Trout and Cubs first-round pick Kris Bryant extend beyond the baseball field.

In addition to elite talent on the diamond, the two 21-year-olds are still trying to wrap their heads around the high expectations thrust upon them. Both Trout and Bryant have fathers who played in the minor leagues in the early 1980s and they each lean on their respective families for support.

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But there's one major difference that sets apart the two young men -- one was drafted in the first round coming out of high school, and one in the 18th, altering the course of their careers forever.

Eddie Bane, who worked as the Los Angeles Angels' director of scouting from 2004-2010, was the man who brought Trout to the Angels system in '09, but admits he missed out on Bryant.

"Eddie Bane came up to Kris about three-quarters of the way through the season this year at San Diego," Mike Bryant, Kris' father, said Friday at Wrigley Field. "Bane doesn't say much. If you can get three words out of this guy, you better listen.

"He looked at Kris, he congratulated him and he said, 'You know what, Kris, the baseball community did a terrible job of scouting you out of high school.'

"To me, you couldn't have told me anything better about my son...That was incredibly important to me."

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In high school, Kris Bryant played for the Angels scout team, which was run by Bane at the time. But he still fell all the way to the Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2010 draft, while Trout was selected with the 25th overall pick in the '09 draft.

Trout, who has been known to stay with his parents in New Jersey on off days or during the winter months, set the world on fire with his MVP-caliber season last year, in which he led the American League in runs (129) and stolen bases (49) while slugging 30 homers and playing Gold Glove defense in center field.

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Bryant is just getting his Cubs career started, as he joined 'The Core' Friday and took batting practice at Wrigley Field for the first time.

"There are a lot of distractions in baseball," Bryant said. "You really have to focus on going out there and playing your best. I've grown up with some great people in my life and they've taught me the right ways."

Bryant drove a few balls through the wind and into the bleachers during his batting practice session, but that's not something you'd see often from the young slugger.

As Mike Bryant tells it, back in high school, Kris was labeled on a scouting report as a guy who only has power during batting practice and can't deliver in games. So Mike told his son to stop hitting homers during BP and instead work on other aspects of his swing, such as taking the ball the other way.

"You can see that he doesn't really get out of himself to take BP," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "You can tell he wasn't out there to put on a laser show as much as it was to keep his swing and tempo and all that. He gets a lot of leverage without a lot of effort."

Mike Bryant spent two years in the Red Sox system and while there, had the good fortune of learning from Ted Williams, arguably the greatest pure hitter to ever play the game.

The elder Bryant is now a hitting instructor, working out of his Las Vegas home and still incorporates ideas Williams instilled in him back in 1980-81.

"So much cerebral instruction," Mike Bryant said. "He was literally 50 years ahead of the curve in terms of hitting. The things that he taught, it took me a long time to fully grasp and understand it. I finally figured out after all these years what he was preaching.

"Basically, you gotta swing up a little bit. A pitcher's on a mound, throwing downhill. So I told Kris at a very young age, 'hit the ball in the air. Hit the ball in the air.' The lift and carry results in home runs.

"You're never going to change the game of baseball. It's always been about the mighty Casey [At the Bat, a popular baseball poem] and it's always been about the home runs. No matter what they do, home run hitters are sought after."

That advice helped make Kris the No. 2 overall selection in the MLB Draft as he recorded a record-setting $6.7 million bonus. Bryant led the nation with 31 homers in 62 games, slugging .820 along the way.

The Cubs hope one day he can put on a show for the fans in the bleachers at Wrigley Field (during game action, of course) and make the sort of impact Trout had for the Angels last year.

But it'll be a long road and on Friday, Bryant's journey was just getting started.