CHICAGO — Kris Bryant had a perfect view as the San Francisco Giants’ team bus pulled up to Wrigley Field on Friday morning.
Bryant, seated at the front as usual, could see Chicago Cubs fans waiting by the right-field visitors’ entrance. The image reminded him of the fans who in 2016 greeted Cubs buses when they arrived to the ballpark around 6 a.m. after winning the World Series title.
“I was just picturing in my head, and I didn’t picture that many people would be waiting out there,” Bryant said in the visitors’ dugout before the series opener. “It’s really special ... pulling out my song from a distance and they’re all just hanging out there.”
Bryant’s first trip back to Wrigley since the Cubs traded him to the Giants on July 30, part of the franchise’s massive roster overhaul at the deadline, brought another first: navigating a previous unventured part of the concourse to get to the visitors’ clubhouse.
“I was lost, I had no clue where I was going, and all these cameras in my face, I was trying to play it off like I knew what I was doing it,” said Bryant, smiling. “It’s still so new too, it feels like I was just here, but just sitting in another dugout, in a different uniform and actually facing the guys that I’ve played with for so long.”
After he was traded, Bryant checked the Giants schedule and became ecstatic at seeing they were slated to play the Cubs in September. There is inherently some weirdness in his return. The team across the diamond looks much different then when he left it. He no longer has to deal with the daily uncertainty of whether he might be traded, though those questions have morphed into what will happen in the offseason when Bryant, 29, becomes a free agent for the first time.
He doesn’t feel any disappointment that he didn’t spend his entire career as a Cub.
“I feel like I’ve made the choice to look back on my time here and just smile at it because it was nothing but smiles,” Bryant said. “There were definitely some harder times, but if you were to tell me when I got drafted that I was going to spend 6 1/2 here and win a World Series and an MVP and Rookie of the Year and four All-Star Games and tons of great memories, I’d tell you you’re crazy, is that really going to happen to me?
“Now I’m sitting here today, and it really did happen for an organization like the Chicago Cubs, playing at Wrigley Field every single day, like, that’s amazing.”
On a fundamental level, his baseball life isn’t much different in San Francisco. The first couple of days with the Giants were an adjustment getting use to a new organization and all that comes with it. He’s back in the hunt for a division title and chasing another championship trophy, though. A lot of the emotions and feelings he experienced during the Cubs’ postseason runs are the exact same.
Bryant has previously acknowledged he’s not the best at soaking up big moments, something he reiterated in his return to Wrigley. He was hopeful he would find a way to take it all in, especially while in left field, where he started Friday in the Giants' 6-1 win over the Cubs. Bryant was looking forward to Cubs fans chatting with him from the bleachers. Bryant, who went hitless Friday in three at-bats with a walk and a run scored, credited his Giants teammates for helping him appreciate and remember this weekend.
“Sometimes you just get so locked into the game and winning and trying to do so well, all of us kind of forget about the little things in the game that we should really enjoy more,” Bryant said. “But I’m going into the series and the game telling myself to enjoy certain things.
“I mean, this place is home to me. It always will be.”
As for whether his time in Chicago is complete, Bryant left it open-ended: “I don’t know. It’s a possibility. It always is. I’m never closing the book on this place ever.”
Even so, there is a feeling of finality to Bryant’s return to Wrigley. He’s the first of the traded trio to be back where so many memories were made. While Anthony Rizzo was still at Wrigley when his deal to the New York Yankees went down, Javier Báez and Bryant were in Washington, D.C., with the team ahead of the Cubs’ next series at the time they were traded.
While this series will give Bryant plenty of opportunities to take in Cubs fans’ adoration, it also provides closure for everyone as both his career and the franchise head in new directions.
“There was a lot going on that you really didn’t give the proper goodbyes to a lot of people that really made my life special over there that necessarily don’t get to go on every road trip,” Bryant said. “That’s what’s been tugging at me a little bit. I didn’t really get to see many of the people that are behind the scenes that really made my life a whole lot easier.
“I’ll get all my hellos in and goodbyes in, too, by the end of this weekend.”
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