Former National League MVP Kris Bryant wasn’t trying to break any news Saturday when he chatted with a small group of reporters at Las Vegas Ballpark a few hours before he took the field for the Colorado Rockies in a spring training game.
He’s just reading the writing on the wall. Las Vegas is on the verge of becoming a Major League city as the new home of the Oakland Athletics.
“I think it’s definitely happening,” the Bonanza High School alum said. “I don’t know if they’ve announced anything officially, but I think it’s great.”
Bryant, who has hit 172 home runs in his MLB career, said a team in his hometown would be a grand slam.
“You see what the Raiders and the Knights are doing, and I think in general people coming here even as tourists, it might just be another thing for them to do,” the 31-year-old said. “I think they’ll do really well. (Las Vegas Ballpark) is awesome, and it’s done really well. Putting a place down on the Strip I think will do even better, so I’m all in favor of it and hopefully I’m still playing by the time they actually do build it.”
That’s certainly likely if he continues to feel the way he does right now. Bryant has missed extended time in two of the last three seasons, playing just 42 games last season after signing a seven-year, $182 million deal with the Rockies.
But even though he experienced some back stiffness last week, he said he’s feeling far more comfortable this spring. Bryant, who went 0-for-2 and was hit by a pitch in an 8-5 loss to the Royals on Saturday, credits that to the sense of normalcy that has been restored after years of pandemic- and labor-related disruptions.
One thing that has never changed about Bryant is who he is as a person. From his high school days to his time at the University of San Diego to his early success as the 2015 rookie of the year and his MVP season with the Cubs the following year to now his injury battles of the last few years, Bryant remains one of the most humble superstars in sports.
It was noteworthy that during the nearly 15 minutes he was peppered with questions Saturday, there was never so much as a glance toward the team’s public relations staff to bail him out. There were acknowledgements and smiles and laughs while the cameras and recorders were off and thoughtful responses when they were on. It’s who he has always been.
“It’s just never been in my repertoire to be that type of player,” he said. “I’ve always had that fire in me that wants to destroy you on the field. But respectfully. That’s kind of how I approach the game and just life in general. I don’t believe status or money or where you’re at in this world makes you any better than the person next to you. That’s just kind of how I’ve been raised and how I want to raise my kids, too.”
He and wife are choosing to do that back home in Las Vegas, where they are both from and still live in the offseason. But the city is changing around them. When Bryant was growing up, he loved going to see Las Vegas Stars games but couldn’t really envision much more from a sports perspective.
“Now that we’re starting to add some really cool events and cool teams, it’s a city that’s moving up in the world, and it’s so cool to see because I’ve been here my whole life,” he said. “We’re getting an F1 race. We’re getting the Super Bowl. Five or 10 years ago, that wasn’t even on anyone’s mind. Now it’s a reality. I hope to be able to go to the game.”
Bryant said Las Vegas Ballpark could be used to temporarily house the A’s if needed while a new park is under construction. The only real question, he said, is how to deal with the heat.
“The facilities no doubt are better than I would say half of the big league teams,” he said.
Colorado and Kansas City will complete their exhibition series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday