Teary-eyed Bryant returns 'home' to Wrigley

September 10th, 2021

CHICAGO -- doesn't consider himself to be very good at soaking in moments, but as the Giants arrived on the North Side of Chicago, he told himself he would try to take in every moment he could over the weekend.

It's been six weeks since Bryant was traded from the Cubs to the Giants. As soon as he was dealt, Bryant looked at San Francisco's schedule, saw an upcoming series at Wrigley Field and circled it on his calendar.

Though the Giants are in the middle of a division title race in the National League West, this series might've been the one Bryant was looking forward to most.

"I think it'll be really fun. I'm excited," Bryant said earlier this week. "I've gotten a lot of texts from some of the staff and the people there. They're excited. ... It will be kind of nice to get there and close the chapter of the book and hopefully have a great series."

Bryant pretty much knew what to expect from fans of his former team when he made his return to Chicago before a 6-1 win on Friday. He said that after seeing the reception former teammates got upon their own returns to Wrigley Field, he could sense something similar would be in store for him.

And since he sensed a warm reception, that desire to do better at soaking in the moments became even more important for him.

It started by visiting some of his favorite places around Wrigleyville during the Giants' off-day on Thursday, including a building not far from the ballpark that has his mural on the side.

Then, as he arrived at the visitor's entrance to Wrigley Field on Friday morning, a crowd was already waiting to see him.

"I didn't picture that many people would be waiting out there. It was really special," Bryant said. "Kind of reminded me of when we got home at 6 in the morning when we won the World Series and there were so many people waiting for us. You expected some people, but not that many."

None of that soaking in of moments, however, could've fully prepared him for the emotions he'd feel as he stepped out onto the field for the first time.

Before the start of Friday's series opener, the Cubs played a tribute video to Bryant, who won the 2016 NL MVP Award en route to helping Chicago end its 108-year-old World Series title drought that season. Images of his playing days, of him walking through the Cubs' clubhouse and of him getting showered with Gatorade after various wins filled the screen, and Bryant could be seen wiping away tears before heading out to a standing ovation.

"It was kind of hard to play a baseball game after that, for sure," Bryant said, "but I really appreciated it. When I first started my career here, I don't know if I could've ever dreamed of having that type of reception and the fans welcoming me back like that. Definitely something that is one of the highlights of my career so far."

"I thought the video was phenomenal, very well done, captured some really important moments in Kris' career," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. "Obviously, the fans here in Chicago seem to mean a lot to Kris. It was cool to see all of his teammates kind of on the top step, participating in that. You know, the best in the business involve everybody, and you could see Kris making sure that everybody was a part of that moment."

Bryant eventually got his first at-bat as a visitor at the park in the first inning. But unlike most visitors who come to the plate, Bryant's old walk-up song -- "Warm it Up" by Kris Kross -- was played over the PA system while the crowd gifted him another loud ovation.

Bryant said that returning to Chicago felt like he was coming home, and those at Wrigley treated it as such.

"This place is home to me. It always will be," Bryant said. "I know my way around here. Anytime I'm in here, I'll always feel like it is home."

Bryant's future beyond 2021 is still uncertain. He said he hasn't closed the door on signing an extension with the Giants, and he hasn't closed the door on returning to the Cubs, either.

But that isn't what this weekend is about for Bryant. This weekend, his first time playing at Wrigley Field in a uniform that isn't the Cubs', is about soaking in the moments, those he created along the way in Chicago and those yet to be made.

Bryant was excited to return to Wrigley Field, and the fans that cheered him on for so many years surely gave him a moment he'll never forget.

"If you were to tell me when I got drafted that I would spend 6 1/2 years here, win a World Series and an MVP and Rookie of the Year, [go to] four All-Star games and [make] tons of great memories, I'd tell you, 'You're crazy. Is that really gonna happen to me?'" Bryant said. "And now I'm sitting here today and that actually did happen to me, for such an organization like the Chicago Cubs, playing at Wrigley Field every single day. That's amazing."