Kris Bryant enjoys the moment during his final contract year with the Cubs


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – APRIL 16: Anthony Rizzo #44 and Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs watch the action from the dugout during a game against the Atlanta Braves and at Wrigley Field on April 16, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. All players are wearing the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

ATLANTA – It’s been a nice change of pace from a few injury-riddled seasons where the numbers weren’t quite what they were at the start of his career.

Despite not getting a hit on Sunday, Kris Bryant is second on the Cubs in hitting with a .294 average, and his five homers along with 12 RBI in 20 games are more than he had in 36 last season.

It’s still a very small sample size, but it certainly appears that the 2016 National League MVP is in a good place as the team completes their first month of the season. That will happen away from Wrigley Field as the Cubs face the Braves in a four-game series in Atlanta then the Reds for three in Cincinnati.

So what’s fueled the better start? Is it just being able to play more often since he’s not been plagued by injuries like the last few seasons? Not quite, according to the third baseman.

“I think it’s just more of a peace of mind for me knowing that, you know, who knows. This could be a lot of our last years here and I think that we’ve done all that we can to show that each of us wants to play here, but none of that had happened,” said Bryant when asked about his improved play so far in 2021 and how much being healthy has aided the improved play. “So it’s just like, let’s just go out there have fun and enjoy this, and really just soak it all in.

“That’s really what I’m trying to do is just, good or bad, whatever happens on the field happens. Of course, I want to go out there and have a great year. I know I’m a free agent next year, all those things play into the human element into this. But it’s just like, at the end of the day, I get to go home and my son is like walking and running around the house constantly and like, you know, my wife; I have such a great family life at home.

“It just makes it super easy to forget about whatever has happened at the field because I have a lot more responsibility now. Honestly, I mean, I’ve said it before to you guys, it’s really changed my life. But it’s just fun to go home and do something different in terms of, you know, just picking up after a kid and chasing him around the house, it’s really brought such joy to my life.”

But the thought of this being his last year with the Cubs, and with a teammate like Anthony Rizzo, is always there. The key for Bryant is to make sure that it doesn’t overwhelm the moment, either in April or later in the summer.

“We don’t talk about it much, but it’s in the back of your head, just the fact that I’ve been playing baseball with Anthony Rizzo for, this is my seventh year now, and it’s like, yeah, it could be our last year together,” said Bryant. “But why would I want to just sit here and, like, feel pressure or any of that or sulk in all of that. I would just rather just really enjoy it and, you know, enjoy these memories.

“So it’s not like we talk about it all the time, but it’s like, let’s maybe have a little bit more fun than we have before and joke around a little more, joke about these stresses that we have each and every day, and we have each other to lean on. It might be the last time we get to use each other for resources like that.”

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