By Bruce Levine–
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — It was a whirlwind offseason for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP who has taken baseball by storm in becoming a superstar at age 25.
Bryant’s offseason was highlighted by getting married to high school sweetheart Jessica in January, two months after helping the Cubs win a historic World Series title last November. And as busy as it all was, Bryant insists the shorter period of time off didn’t wear him down. He’s been itching to get back on the diamond.
“I feel fine,” Bryant said Wednesday upon arriving at Cubs camp. “I guess I am the wrong guy to ask that question. I feel great and I still have youth on my side. I just think everyone is ready to go. We did have a short offseason, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We are excited to be back, and it’s good to play baseball for a living. We now put all of the other stuff when you do this.”
The challenge for Bryant, his teammates and manager Joe Maddon is to repeat. That hasn’t been done in baseball in 17 years, since the Yankees accomplished the feat in 1999 and 2000.
“Sure, it’s going to be tough to do,” Bryant said. “We still have the majority of our guys here. Obviously, we lost some guys. We have gotten some new guys. It will be fun we know that. Joe always makes it fun for us. That is especially true in the spring. Yeah, we are extremely confident heading into it. I guess some of the pressure is off of us — 108 years is now behind us. The goal from here on out is to win the World Series. Every season after that is a failure unless you do that.”
Bryant can’t speak for all of his teammates, but he does feel good about the players in the room and their approach to being the best once again in 2017.
“‘Complacent’ is one of the worst words out there in baseball,” Bryant said. “I think going what we went through last year, it just makes us want to go through it again. Playing in a Game 7 is the most stressful game you can play in sports. I think all of our nerves are pretty calm knowing we played in one of the most stressful games in the history of this sport. I think we will be fine. There are definitely no complacent people here.”
Cubs players are often rock stars these days, and that special feeling hasn’t been lost on Bryant, one of many to be treated like royalty.
“I felt it during the offseason in Las Vegas,” Bryant said. “I really did not realize how many fans we have around the country. It was even hard to go places in my home town. All you see is Cubs hats everywhere. Driving in my car I see a guy running — he is wearing a Cubs hat. I think, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ This really shows what we did. It’s something we always can be proud of.”
With Davis Ross having retired, Bryant will be one of several looked upon to help fill the leadership void left.
“There are a lot of leaders on this team — (Jon) Lester, (John) Lackey, (Anthony) Rizzo,” Bryant said. “Everyone here is a leader in his own way. Yes myself, but I lead in a different way. We all draw off of one and other. There are so many good names here. Rossy will be missed. I don’t know if you can fill his shoes. He is just a different animal. We know a lot of guys will step up.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.