Kris Bryant, sophomore

A year after his MLB debut, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year looks ahead

April 13th, 2016
Still just 24 years old and in his second MLB season, Kris Bryant has big things in store. (Getty Images)Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The past 12 months have been a whirlwind ride for Cubs superstar Kris Bryant. He's just 24 years old, but since April 17, 2015, he has made his Major League debut, played in an All-Star Game, carried Chicago to the NLCS and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He didn't rest once the offseason rolled around, either, getting engaged to his high school sweetheart and even swimming with sharks.

Now, with a full season ahead of him, Bryant is out to one-up his thoroughly impressive 2015. "I don't know if this season can top it," he told Little League Magazine, "but I'm certainly going to try."

That may only be possible with a Cubs appearance in the World Series.

What's it like to be on a team of predominantly younger players? It seems like many of you guys are friends and have a lot of fun together.

A lot of us are pretty close to each other in age and we relate to each other on that level. So we have fun on a daily basis. We bring DJs and animals to the field and really get to experience the fun of baseball being on the Chicago Cubs.

Tell us about what it was like to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award.

There are a lot of guys that were very deserving, a lot of guys in this clubhouse that could have won it. You only get one year to win it, so it was truly an honor. It was definitely one of my favorite things that I've done so far in my baseball career.

After being named ROY, you had quite an exciting offseason. Can you tell us about that?

This whole year (2015), I couldn't have written it better myself. Having an unbelievable year, both individually and as a team, and then in the offseason getting engaged, going to Hawaii and swimming with sharks, I just really enjoyed it.

What made you decide to swim with sharks?

We were like, "Why not do it? We're in Hawaii." I get terribly seasick when I get on a boat. And I was feeling it there, but I just thought, "I have to do this and say I swam with sharks."

They were Galapagos sharks and sand sharks. No Great Whites or tiger sharks. They said those are the scary ones. I'm never going to do it again, but it was fun.

Does that mean you're an adventurous guy in general?

I'm slowly getting there. I'm just realizing that there are a lot of opportunities coming my way to do cool things like that, and you've got to be crazy not to take advantage of it.

After such a huge year in 2015, what are your expectations for this season?

It's going to be exciting to see how much better we are as a team. The vibe that I'm getting from everybody is that our expectations are bigger than anybody else's out there. We expect a lot of ourselves and we're holding each other accountable.

Are there any players who you try to emulate on the field?

Most recently, I like to look at Evan Longoria. He's a very underrated player, but he's one of the best third basemen in the game. Watching him defensively and at the plate, I can learn a lot from him.

You played with Bryce Harper when you were younger. What was that like?

I played with him when I was around 8 or 9 and then again when we were 13 and 14. All I really remember was just how much better he was than anybody on the field. He would just get up to the plate and hit bombs. I think at that time I knew the type of player he would be, and now he's the MVP. I kind of expected that.

Is an MVP Award in the cards for you next?

It would certainly be awesome. Typically I don't really set goals around awards, but I think if I do things the right way and focus on the team and helping them win -- I've always done it that way -- things usually turn out for the better. So I'll just continue doing that and see where things go.

What are some of your greatest youth baseball memories?

My favorite one was hitting my first home run. It was in coach-pitch practice for my team at Peccole Little League [in Las Vegas]. My dad had told me that if I hit a home run, he'd give me $100. And at the time, I was like, "$100? I can get so much with that."

So I hit my first home run and was running around the bases, and my dad was at third base waiting for me. He picked me up and gave me the biggest hug. I don't think I even made it to home. But that sticks out as one of my greatest baseball memories.

What advice do you have for kids who are playing baseball now or want to play?

Do it because you truly love it and not because anyone is telling you to play. My parents never told me to get out there and go practice. It was always me wanting to. I would always go out in the cul-de-sac with my friends and play Wiffle Ball. I just loved the game.

For me, what really helped was just getting out in the street and playing 3-on-3 with my friends. Doing that helps your hand-eye coordination begin to develop. It's nothing serious. All of that practice really helped me translate into playing more seriously and in real games.

Do you pay much attention to statistics?

I try not to. I did that so much in high school, and it can really cloud your vision. You can't focus on the numbers; they're always changing. My dad always says, "You are who you are as a player, and you're going to end up where you're meant to at the end of the year." And he's always right.