CHICAGO -- As a kid growing up in Las Vegas, Kris Bryant said he didn’t dream or even think much about participating in the Home Run Derby. But every now and then, his dad, Mike Bryant, would mention it, saying he knew exactly where to pitch the ball to Kris to induce home runs.
The father will get to test that theory on Monday at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Kris Bryant, the Chicago Cubs' rookie third baseman, is going to be among eight participants in the event held next week on the eve of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
“I think I decided to do it more for him, so he can experience it with me and share that with me,” Kris Bryant said. “I called him and he was very excited. I think he’s more excited for the Home Run Derby than the game, actually.”
Besides having his father pitch to him, Bryant will be joined by another familiar face -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is one of three left-handers in the competition.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Rizzo said. “Kris and I will really enjoy it. I think everyone that’s in it will enjoy it. It’s something I watched growing up as a kid. It’s going to be awesome.
“It an exciting feeling to do it together, so we better put on a good show.”
In the new format, both Cubs players are on opposite sides of the bracket -- Bryant faces Albert Pujols and Rizzo goes against Josh Donaldson in the first round -- so there’s a chance they could meet in the finals.
“We’re just going in to have fun,” Bryant said. “I think [Rizzo] has a pretty good chance. Cincinnati is a pretty good left-handed hitters park. I get to watch him every day in BP and it’s pretty special.
“Hopefully, I’ll win it, but if he wins it, that’s great, too.”
Manager Joe Maddon says he is neutral.
“If there’s such a thing as a tie and they both can win it, I’ll take it,” he said. “This has been a big part of generating interest and we have two guys that really generate a lot of interest.”
Maddon, though, hasn’t been the biggest fan of his players participating in Home Run Derby, believing it can mess up their swings for the second half of the season. He was diplomatic on Wednesday.
“I knew their preference,” Maddon said. “I think they’ll handle it properly.”
Bryant said he isn’t concerned about his swing being negatively affected.
“Not at all,” he said. “I think if you talk to any baseball player, they’ll tell you they try to hit some homers in BP, so it’s no different. For me, I think it fits my swing. I kind of have a slight uppercut. I won’t change anything, maybe swing a little bit harder.”
Bryant hopes to find a little time before the event to have his dad, a former minor league player, throw to him.
“He knows how to throw me. I just hope his arm holds up,” he said. “I probably won’t yell at him as much. Usually in the offseason, I give him a hard time when he’s not throwing me strikes, but he normally throws pretty good.”
Mike Bryant said he’s ready. "I've been practicing in anticipation and now I have tendinitis," he said jokingly by telephone. "I'm just nervous about throwing in front of all those people."