Bryant an All-Star: 'This is the most special one'

Cubs' third baseman to join starters Baez, Contreras on July 9

June 30th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- has made All-Star teams in the past, but this one felt different. When Cubs manager Joe Maddon delivered the news to the third baseman on Sunday morning, Bryant expressed how much this one meant and how excited he was to attend the event.

"He was effusively happy," Maddon said with a smile.

The driving factor for Bryant's response to the news that he made his third National League All-Star team -- joining teammates and on the Senior Circuit's squad -- is the backdrop of last season. That Bryant discussed his selection by the Commissioner's Office while at Great American Ball Park was also fitting under the circumstances.

In a game against Cincinnati on May 19 last year, Bryant slid head-first into first base, injuring his left shoulder in the process. The issue persisted, sapped his slugging percentage and created a constant stream of questions -- down the stretch in 2018, over the offseason and throughout Spring Training -- about whether the third baseman could return to his prior level of play.

Bryant has answered those questions with his play, and now his All-Star selection serves as some validation.

Is it satisfying for Bryant? He wrestled with whether that was the appropriate word.

"I don't know if it's satisfying," Bryant said. "I've never been satisfied with how I've played baseball in my life. I'm always striving for more. But, I guess it's just a nice reward to come into this year and kind of put some of the other stuff to rest and just go out there and play baseball.

"This is the most special one I've had so far. And that means a lot."

The 2019 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be played on July 9 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage.

MLB Network, and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. During the game, fans may visit and the 30 club sites to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, please visit and follow @MLB and @AllStarGame on social media.

Baez and Contreras won the fan vote and will start at shortstop and catcher, respectively, for the National League. Contreras found out that Bryant made the All-Star team with them after Sunday's 8-6 loss to Cincinnati and beamed upon hearing the news.

"Oh yeah? That's awesome," Contreras said. "I'm really proud of this guy. He worked so hard to be there. It shows when he plays on the field. I know that a lot of fans don't see that much energy from him, but that's what he is. He's a calm guy, but I'm really proud of him. I think he's going to make even more All-Star Games."

Bryant -- selected second overall by the Cubs in the 2013 MLB Draft -- made an All-Star team and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2015. He made the NL All-Star team again in '16, when the Cubs went on to win the World Series. As his star power continued to rise, the magnifying glass has also been increasingly fixed on the third baseman's quotes, performance and contract situation.

Veteran outfielder Jason Heyward rattled off all of those achievements and storylines, adding that he has been impressed by how Bryant has handled everything since breaking into the big leagues.

"That's just pressure, man," Heyward said. "There's a lot of stuff he's had to overcome. And that's the name of the game, man, when you're one of the great ones. So, it's awesome to see him make the All-Star team."

That pressure was there again early on this season, when Bryant hit .221 with one home run and a .691 OPS through his first 20 games. It was fair to wonder if last season's issues were creeping into 2019, even with Bryant insisting that he was healthy and his mechanics were back to normal.

"Then, all of a sudden," Maddon said, "he got hot and now he's back there."

In Sunday's loss, Bryant legged out a pair of hustle doubles and drew a walk. Over his past 60 games, he's turned in a .311/.418/.603 slash line with 15 home runs. On the season, Bryant is batting .285 with 16 homers, 41 RBIs and a .935 OPS, which ranked 12th in the NL.

"In the offseason, I was working really hard on just being healthy, and it's paid off," Bryant said. "I'm not done yet, though. It's still the halfway point. There's still a lot of games to play. But it feels nice. It's just nice when you don't make it for a couple years and then you make it. It's like, 'Yeah, I'm still the same player.'"