Every major leaguer remembers his first call up. Kris Bryant is not different.
“We were in New Orleans and we had a doubleheader and the second game got rained out,” Bryant said. “Coach called me into the office, and we were just talking about the game. He [Marty Pevey] kind of just brought it up randomly in the middle of our conversation and told me I was going to the bigs. It was so random and so exciting, and a time I’ll never forget.”
Bryant however is unlike many call-ups with the hype he received calling up, something Pittsburgh Pirates players were unable to relate to.
Neil Walker first came up as a September call-up in 2009 playing in 17 games. While Walker felt he had a lot to prove, he did not feel it was as significant as what Bryant has had to deal with.
“There are a lot of emotions attached to it, a lot of expectations,” Walker said. “Certainly you want to prove the people that brought you up right and you want to help the team. You want it to be as quiet and as seamless as possible, but at the same time, it’s kind of one of those things that you can’t control us.”
Andrew McCutchen also was called up in 2009 starting his season in June and had fond memories recalling when he got the call.
“It was just a fun experience, it’s something that you dream about it’s the one thing you work hard towards doing,” McCutchen said. “We all have aspirations, we all have dreams so when that dream is an actual reality there are the feelings that go with that. You’re nervous, you’re excited, happy and you get all of these emotions at once, but essentially it is everything you could have wanted and dreamed for.”
The 23-year-old Bryant was the second overall pick in the 2013 draft and earned 2014 Minor League Player of the Year from Baseball America and USA Today after combining for 43 home runs and 110 RBI between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He was rated as the second-best prospect in MLB.com’s top-100 prospects list heading into the 2015 season.
McCutchen and Walker each understand much of the call up is about the mental aspect.
“That’s what we think about. We let everything on the outside get on the inside and that sometimes can affect you,” said McCutchen. “There’s a lot of situations may change but the game itself doesn’t change, you still have to pitch it, throw it, catch it and hit it. That’s what it’s all about so once you make that adjustment, you’ll be all right.”
“He probably played well enough to make the team out of Spring Training and obviously that didn’t happen and for whatever reason the media followed it and given his past and how well he had done in the minor leagues, particularly the high minor leagues,” Walker said. “The media kind of blew it out of proportion where they wanted to talk about it all the time. That’s kind of something he’s dealing with and is going to have to deal with. It comes up with every prospect that is called up, but some are bigger than others.”
Bryant knows that these accolades draw attention, something he’s had to get accustomed to.
“For me, I think I’ve been through it for so long that it’s kind of just second nature for me,” said Bryant. “It’s not too hard for me. My expectations are bigger than anyone’s out there so as long as I am taking that attitude then I’ll be fine.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon believes Bryant has passed every test in his time thus far in the big leagues.
Now Bryant is in Pittsburgh for his first road series in his major league career.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like that anticipatory moment he had to go through and I thought he dealt with it extremely well,” Maddon said. “He couldn’t have dealt with it any better than he did.”
Also among those who think Bryant is off to a good start is his agent Scott Boras. Boras visited PNC Park for Tuesday night’s game and talked to reporters about Bryant and Addison Russell, another top-rated prospect, both of which he is the agent for.
“Kris has a unique personality in addition to having a unique talent,” Boras said. “He’s the kind of guy that’s very focused on the game, what he does and how he does it. He managed all of the stuff that went on during Spring Training by staying completely out of it. He just wants to go baseball and do his best and dealing with [the media’s] questions and managing it in a particular way. He just has a great sense about it and I think being able to turn that off, and turn it on and go out and play.”
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and Walker each advised that Bryant’s adjustment may take time.
Huntington said Mike Trout, who he considers to be one of the best young players in this generation, started slow getting sent down while Walker referenced Javier Baez also of the Cubs who was on the team for half of last season and did not break camp with them in 2015.
None of the media attention fazes Bryant however and he continues to push forward.
“You’ve just got to not read too much good or bad,” said Bryant. “You start reading the good stuff it gets to your head, you start reading the bad stuff you start doubting yourself. I don’t read anything out there, so for me it’s definitely been good because it doesn’t get to my head.”