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DENVER — Kris Bryant stood in front of his locker in the Rockies’ clubhouse at Coors Field on Thursday afternoon, ready to answer questions in the pregame media scrum.
There were Colorado media members in attendance, obviously, but he also recognized a group of media who’d followed the Cubs to Denver for the teams’ four-game series. With so much recent history between the Rockies’ new left fielder and the team he won a World Series with in 2016, of course that group wanted to speak to Bryant about his time in Chicago.
And as he began reflecting on that era of his career that ended last July 30, he said the words I’d even started thinking myself lately:
“I enjoyed my time in Chicago, but I don’t know if it warrants a press conference every time I play them.”
Whether it’s warranted or not, as long as Bryant plays in Major League Baseball, he’s going to be tied back to the Cubs. And as long as he’s tied back to the Cubs, he’ll continue to face questions from the media about that very connection.
But at the same time, isn’t it starting to feel like too much is still being made about that?
Bryant has played for two different teams since the Cubs dealt him at last year’s trade deadline. Unlike fellow World Series heroes turned deadline trade chips Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo, he’s gotten that closure of walking out onto Wrigley Field in a uniform that isn’t the Cubs’ and having his moment for fans to say “thank you.”
His San Francisco Giants visited the North Side exactly six weeks to the day that Bryant was traded, and the emotions that followed throughout his first trip back to Chicago showed just how much the team and the city meant to him. That felt like the moment of closure that would allow Cubs fans to be able to move on. They’re still waiting for Rizzo and Báez’s returns, but maybe that should’ve been the time to turn the page on the Bryant era of Cubs history.
That moment certainly brought with it some semblance of closure for Bryant, beyond just the relief that he was finally done dealing with questions about trade rumors.
“I can fall back on the fact that I know where I’m going to be, and I don’t have to hear any rumors or anything like that,” Bryant said. “So there is peace in that, but I guess I kind of got over those feelings last year when I did get traded, because it was talked about for a long time so I never knew what was going to happen, and then it finally did. And then it was like, ‘OK, now I’m here for the rest of the year and I know what I’ve got going in the offseason, so I can just really relax.’ I kind of got over it then.”
However, it still just seems like, even though it’s been nearly nine months since Bryant was a Cub, he’s always a major topic of conversation among Chicago fans. Many aren’t quite over it like Bryant is. Whether it’s because fans loved him or grew sour on him, there are those who’ll continue to constantly talk about Bryant and the Cubs and can’t allow themselves to focus on what’s ahead of them.
That actually reminds me of a quote from an immensely popular movie. Please, allow me to nerd-out for a second.
In “Avengers: Endgame,” when Thanos discovers that the remaining Avengers are going to undo his “eliminate half of life so the other half can thrive” plan, he decides there’s only one thing that can be done.
“As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those that are unable to accept what can be,” he says.
To him, that meant wiping out all living beings in the entire universe and starting over.
I’m not taking things to that extreme, but part of the message sort of connects here, too. As long as there are people who remember what Bryant did for the Cubs in helping to break the 108-year championship drought, there will be those that can’t accept that Bryant and Chicago have both moved on.
(OK, I’m sorry if that one seems like too much of a stretch. I just needed to get an Avengers quote in here eventually.)
All of that is OK. It’s OK if Bryant was your favorite player or you think the front office didn’t do everything they could to extend him or you wish he would’ve went back to the Cubs this past offseason. Really, it’s OK.
Whenever I look down from the press box at Wrigley Field, and when I looked down from the press box at Coors Field on Thursday, I saw plenty of white jerseys with blue pinstripes that read “BRYANT” across the back with his old number “17” sitting just below. Whether it’s Cubs fans in Chicago or Cubs fans in Denver, Bryant still has plenty of supporters — and he loves that.
“I will always appreciate it,” he said. “Just because I don’t play for the Cubs anymore, it’s not like you really turn the page. I mean, I do my best when I am in the game and we have a series to play to not really put too much thought into it, which I won’t. It’s just a part of me and it’s a part of who I am.
“It’s a part of why I’m able to be in the position that I am today. There’s a lot of gratefulness and thanks to be had all around, but yeah, it’s special to see that.”
Still, Bryant hasn’t been on the team since last July. In that time, he’s gone to the playoffs with the Giants, waited through a 99-day lockout and signed a seven-year, $182 million contract with the Rockies. And he’s happy now.
That doesn’t mean he’ll ever forget what playing for the Chicago Cubs meant to him.
“I don’t know if that chapter will ever close until I’m done playing baseball, because I rely on a lot of what I went through there to make me who I am now and help me in the future with the guys here,” Bryant said. “So, I’m not ever going to close that chapter, because I had a lot of fun there.”
He won’t close the chapter, but he’s also not going back to Chicago on his own accord anytime soon. So, maybe it’s on Cubs fans to still remember what he helped bring to Chicago, but to also turn the page and fully focus on this new era without him.
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