Cubs’ Kris Bryant ‘more at peace’ with Chicago future, ‘who I am’

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Gordon Wittenmyer
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Kris Bryant ‘more at peace’ with Cubs future, ‘who I am’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

MESA, Ariz. — In a relaxed setting at a patio alongside a quiet practice field, on a sunny day off in Arizona, Kris Bryant laughs when reminded of his gone-viral response to criticism last September.

And then he says it again. Because it’s still the way he feels. Because it’s part of a rediscovered peace of mind that grew in him over the past year or two.

“I’m at that point where I don’t give a sh—,” he said. “I don’t. I really don’t. And it’s a great feeling to have.”

The rare public display of profanity from the Cubs’ resident nice-guy All-Star originally was a response to critics on social media and among paid talking heads over struggles during an injury-hampered, pandemic-altered season.

These days it might as well be an internal mantra that covers coping with life in a pandemic, fatherhood, preparing for another full baseball season and, of course, the business of baseball — including coming to peace with the likelihood that this is his final year with the Cubs.

“I don’t want to say I’m ‘at peace,’ but I’m more at peace just in things in general,” Bryant says during a wide-ranging conversation with NBC Sports Chicago scheduled to air in its entirety on a Cubs Talk Podcast next week.

“Not just the fact that it’s a contract year or that I’m a free agent next year,” he says. “It doesn’t really cross my mind too often. It’s that I’m more at peace just with who I am as a person and as a dad, as a husband, as a son and just what I want to be known as, as just a good person.

“Sometimes it comes across as ‘he’s soft’ or whatever,” he adds. “I don’t care about that. I’m an extreme competitor inside. I play my video games at home, and I get pissed when I lose those games. Ask my wife; she hears me across the room. I get pissed when I strike out. I just don’t show it on the field. but I’ll go inside the dugout or the [tunnel] and break a helmet or break a bat. But I don’t show that. I don’t want to show that to the people who are watching me. I don’t want to be seen as a bad role model. That’s just not who I am.

“But I have a fiery side in me that competes and wants to do well every single time. And that’s why I’ve been MVP and Rookie of the Year and [won a] World Series championship and [been] an All-Star.”

The visions of all those achievements are why the Cubs spent the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft on Bryant and why — after the best spring training performance in the majors in nine seasons — they manipulated his service time in 2015 with two weeks in the minors that assured a seventh year of club control.

That year is this year, the Cubs’ first in a decade without Theo Epstein in charge, a season of lowered expectations, cost-cutting and transition of the roster — the kind of season nobody in the Cubs’ front office envisioned for Bryant’s seventh, stolen year.

And while recently promoted team president Jed Hoyer said he plans to talk to core players about contract extensions this spring — the same Hoyer who earned unsolicited praise from Bryant for his “open and honest” communication style — no such discussions between the club and Bryant have been broached, Bryant said when he met with beat writers in camp this week.

MORE: Kris Bryant on the Cubs’ new boss: Not the same as the old boss

“There hasn’t been anything,” says Bryant, whose expiration date with the club has been all but set since extension talks four years ago went nowhere — and certainly by the time he lost his grievance 14 months ago over the service-time manipulation.

“I’ve always had a great relationship with Kris, and I don’t think I’m doing anything that Theo and I didn’t do before, which is just trying to keep guys abreast of stuff and be honest,” says Hoyer, who didn’t rule out trying to raise extension talks again from the long-cold ashes.

The reality is there’s a greater chance Bryant is traded in the summer than extended by the fall.

That’s part of where being “more at peace” comes back in for the three-time All-Star. Maybe this year more than any in his career.

“There’s no countdown in my mind,” says Bryant, who repeatedly expresses his affection for the team, city and fans — and a willingness to engage again in talks if Hoyer wants that.

“My mind is very, I don’t know — it’s just clear,” he says. “I’m here. And present. I enjoy the new faces around me. I enjoy my time at home. And it’s a good feeling.”

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