CHICAGO -- Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant would have preferred to be playing this baseball season under normal circumstances, but there was a personal blessing that emerged from the sports world's pause in March due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Bryant was able to be home for the birth of his son in April, and then he had three months to soak in every moment of being a new dad.
"It was so good to be home," Bryant said. "I know there's a lot going on in the world and people being sick. I'm super thankful that my family was able to stay healthy. The baby's healthy. My wife's healthy. And it's just awesome to see how much they change early on, too. I mean, he came out a big chunkster, and now he's like tall and lanky like me."
Bryant's growing family is also why he is still dealing with a daily dose of uneasiness.
In these early days of Summer Camp at Wrigley Field, Bryant has been keeping his distance from teammates. He can often be spotted sitting on one of the side brick walls, rather than in the dugout. He has even donned a mask while on the field taking grounders. Bryant wants to lead by example as baseball attempts to make this season work, but he also is worried about bringing something home.
Bryant noted that he had a discussion on Sunday with Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, who has been open about his 30-day battle with COVID-19 during baseball's intermission. Hottovy is 38 years old, in good shape, took precautions and still contracted the virus. The coach is recovered now and negative for coronavirus, but his story serves as a warning to people around the team and in baseball.
"I go home every day and I just think, 'What if I were to get it and bring it home?'" Bryant said. "That'd be awful for me, or if my wife got it taking care of the baby. There's just so [many] things that could go wrong. And I'm just really trying to do my best to stay positive with this whole thing and get through this year healthy, as is everybody."
Bryant was asked if electing not to participate was still a consideration for him.
"No, I mean, can you imagine me opting out?" he said. "I just couldn't do that. I'm going to do everything I can to be safe and healthy and lead by example and encourage people to do the right thing, but there's a baseball season and I want to be out there."
Cubs manager David Ross has said that he hopes Wrigley Field feels like a "safe haven" for players right now, as they deal with anxiety and stress. In recent days, Ross said his players began expressing that there was actually a growing sense of fear, given the way the COVID-19 testing has been handled early on.
Both Bryant and Albert Almora Jr., for example, noted in Zoom calls with reporters on Monday that they were tested on June 30 and then not again until Sunday. While the Cubs have not had any positive tests to date in camp, lefty Kyle Ryan has yet to report due to a "process-based" delay, according to the team. The Cardinals, Nationals and Astros canceled their Monday workouts due to delays in getting test results back.
"I think if we really want this to succeed, we're going to have to figure that out," Bryant said. "I wanted to play this year because I felt that it would be safe and I would feel comfortable, but honestly, I don't really feel that."
Ross said he was "bothered" by the situation and personally reached out to MLB, but he was assured things would improve as all parties involved get accustomed to the protocols and procedures.
Not long after Ross gave that feedback to Chicago media, Major League Baseball issued a statement and noted that 95 percent of the tests under the intake screening period have been conducted and shared with teams. The outstanding tests were expected to be completed Monday, with the every-other-day testing phase set to begin.
"We're doing our best," Almora said. "I know the league's doing their best, as hard as it is with the testing. There's been some setbacks. They've never been through this, like we haven't. So I don't know. It's uncomfortable."
Bryant made it clear that he did not want any complaints about the frequency of tests to come off as insensitive, given some of the issues the general public has endured in the past several months. For the same reasons, Bryant felt it was inappropriate to complain at all about the protocols that will force players to alter behavior in the dugouts or on the field.
"We all want this thing to work," Bryant said. "And if we have to do an air high-five or find a different way to get a different grip on the ball, I think we can all figure that out."
Bryant also said that fatherhood, combined with the other issues facing the country and globe right now, have given him a different perspective on his own future.
Bryant is currently on target for free agency after the 2021 season, which has increasingly fueled trade speculation. With the Trade Deadline moved to Aug. 31 this season, Bryant said he hopes he "wouldn't be shipped out in the middle of a pandemic," and reiterated how much he loves playing for the Cubs and would be open to discussing a long-term deal.
"If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't," Bryant said. "I'm happy with where I'm at. I love this organization. I love everybody [who is] a part of it. Like I said, I'm up to hearing what they have to say, but there's a lot more other worries in my life and the world right now.
"I feel like it's a little insensitive to be talking about big dollars and stuff like that when people are losing their jobs and their lives and stuff like that. I've never been the type to be super selfish and want the attention on me to sign a contract or whatever. I think there's bigger problems right now."