It was Thursday afternoon, and a hard rain that would have done Bob Dylan proud was a-gonna fall. In fact, it already was a-fallin’.
There would be no baseball on this day.
And that was fine by Kris Bryant.
It had been, what, five days since Bryant had last played an organized baseball game? Yes, it had been a whole five days. Five days since the end of the Arizona Fall League season, five days since he had been named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
And though Kris Bryant plays baseball better than most — played it better, in fact, than all but one amateur heading into the most recent major league draft, or the Cubs wouldn’t have selected him No. 2 overall and paid him a hefty $6.71 million bonus — he seemed happy a hard rain was a-fallin’. Happy there would be no baseball on this day.
No runs, no hits, no errors. No sunflower seeds in the dugout. No Tim McCarver breaking it all down.
“No, and I’m not planning on it, either,” said the former Bonanza High slugger with a half chuckle/half sigh of relief. “I’ve been pretty busy with baseball for a little while.”
From Feb. 8 to Nov. 16, the power-hitting third baseman with the easy smile played in 118 baseball games that counted in the standings.
When he was playing for his father, Mike, Kris Bryant once played a full big league schedule, 162 games. But that was, like, against 11-year-olds.
This season he played in 118 games during which guys tried to get him out with stuff on his fists, and junk on the corners. And the second half of the season it was against professionals, guys with facial hair and guys from the Dominican Republic — guys who rarely throw one in your wheelhouse. Guys who prefer something a little harder than Juicy Juice after ballgames.
The 21-year-old Bryant played ball in Los Angeles and in San Diego, and in the less pretentious California towns: Stockton, Riverside, Irvine. He played in Wilmington, N.C., and in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Boise in Idaho, Everett in Washington, Eugene in Oregon. Dunedin and Tampa and Broward County in Florida; Glendale and Scottsdale in Arizona. And, Surprise! He played in Surprise, against the Saguaros.
He played against Lions and Tigers and Bears, or at least Bruins; against Desert Dogs and Dust Devils; against Manatees and Flying Tigers, Stone Crabs and Hammerheads, AquaSox and Hops, which is what they call the pro baseball team in Hillsboro, Ore.
He wore five uniforms, including the alternate jersey of the Boise Hawks, which is green and maroon and baby blue and has a gigantic yellow “B” in the middle. And yet Kris Bryant hit a home run wearing that jersey. More than one, in fact.
He played in five leagues, one amateur, four professional. And he took batting practice at Wrigley Field. He hit several balls over the ivy-covered walls and into the bleachers on the day Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations and, like Bryant, a University of San Diego man (he attended law school there after Yale), was showing him off as one does a new convertible.
Bryant did not hit one onto Waveland Avenue, however; the wind was blowing in.
After leading the nation with 31 homers on his way to winning the Golden Spikes Award (the college baseball Heisman Trophy), Bryant batted .354 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 18 games at short-season Class A Boise; .336 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 16 games at longer season Class-A Daytona; .and 346 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 21 games for the Mesa Solar Sox, against the other hotshots and phenoms of the Arizona Fall League.
Basically, he knocked the cover off the baseball wherever he went, and that’s saying something, because this year he went to a lot of places.
Next spring, he might even get to play a couple of games at Cashman Field.
The Cubs will play the Mets on Big League Weekend, and it wouldn’t surprise anybody if No. 17 — Bryant’s number with the Cubs — suits up with the Chicago regulars.
(Bryant wore 23 in college, but that number is flying from the foul pole at Wrigley Field. Because that was Ryne Sandberg’s number.)
“It’s been a pretty good year,” Bryant agreed on Thursday after some prodding, because unlike a lot of phenoms who strike it rich, this kid doesn’t have an arrogant bone in his body.
“You always think it could have been a little bit better here and there. But overall, I think I performed really well, and I was on some winning teams, so it was a very neat experience for me.”
This is what Theo Epstein recently said: “I’ve been impressed by his performance. It’s hard not to be. You have to remember this was a very advanced college bat who put up historically good power production at the college level.
“Traditionally, if someone’s going to come out of the draft and dominate, it’s that type of player.”
Baseball people think Kris Bryant’s future is so bright he’s gotta wear shades. Even when a hard rain is a-fallin’.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.