The history of the Chicago Cubs dates all the way back to 1876. The team has produced a number of baseball's biggest stars including household names like Ernie Banks and Ryne Sandberg. However, until recently the team was probably best known for having one of the longest championship droughts in any major pro sport. They went 1o8 years between World Series titles. For those of you doing the math at home, prior to last season, the Cubs hadn't won it all since 1908. To put that in perspective, Theodore Roosevelt was the sitting President of The United States. There was even a curse associated with the Cubs, given by a man named William Sianis. Sianis was informed that the odor of his pet goat was offensive to the other spectators and was therefore asked to leave Wrigley Field. This prompted Sianis to declare "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more". This incident became known as "The Cuse of the Billy Goat." However, the curse was finally lifted in 2016 by a Cubs team lead standouts Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
Bryant and Rizzo are two of the brightest young stars in all of Major League Baseball. If you're a Cubs fan or just a fan of baseball then you're certainly already familiar with these two names. However, there is still quite a bit you probably aren't aware of about these two young sluggers. Let take a look at 15 facts you didn't know about Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
14 Bryant: Married His High School Sweetheart
Sorry ladies, you won't be seeing the Cubs 3rd basemen on any list of baseball's most eligible bachelors. MLB's reigning MVP was officially taken off the market this past January when he married his high school sweetheart Jessica Delp. The two met in Bryant's hometown of Las Vegas when they were both 16 years of age and have been dating ever since. They actually took their engagement photos at Wrigley Field, the Cubs home ballpark. It's always nice to hear about young love blossoming, especially at one of baseball's oldest ballparks. The new Mrs. Bryant will likely be seen cheering her husband in the stands for years to come.
At just 27 years of age, the Cubs 1st baseman has already survived one bout with cancer. The power hitter was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma back in April of 2008. From there Rizzo opted to undergo chemotherapy for approximately 6 months. By the time November rolled around the cancer was in remission and he was told by his doctor he "could live a normal life". Rizzo cited his mother's support as being instrumental in helping him beat cancer "She was there. It was tough news to get, but the doctors were so assuring that everything would be fine. It was emotional. But with the support I had, it made it easy."
13 Bryant: Dad Played Minor League Ball
Apparently, baseball runs in the family. Kris's dad Mike was also a pretty good ballplayer in his own right. He was part of the Boston Red Sox minor league organization back in the 80s. While Mike Bryant never made it to the majors, he did have a chance to work with none other than baseball legend Ted Williams, who was his hitting coach for a period of time. When asked about his father the younger Bryant stated, “He’s a huge influence.“He’s so passionate for the game. I call him after every game and talk to him about my at-bats, what they’re throwing me. It’s great to have someone like that in my life.” Kris gives his father a great deal of credit regarding his own development as a hitter.
12 Rizzo: Traded For Andrew Cashner
Anthony Rizzo has become so entrenched in the Cubs lineup it's easy to forget he actually played for the San Diego Padres at one point. Rizzo was traded to the Cubs in 2012 along with pitcher Zach Cates in exchange for starting pitcher Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na. However, Rizzo and Cashner were essentially the centerpieces of the trade, with neither Na or Cates contributing much for either team. Though Cashner struggled with injuries, he had his moment's with Padres but didn't come anywhere close to becoming the type of franchise player Rizzo eventually would. There's little doubt that the Padres organization regret trading Rizzo. That being said, there are millions of Cubs fans around the world who are extremely happy they did.
11 Bryant: Was Originally Drafted By The Blue Jays
Yes. Bryant was drafted by the Cubs 2nd overall in the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft. However, it's a little-known fact that Kris Bryant was originally selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2010 draft. Instead of signing with Blue Jay's organization, Bryant opted to play college baseball for the San Diego Toreros. As a junior in college Bryant would go on to hit 31 home runs, the most by any college player since the NCAA switched to BBCOR composite bats. He also won the Dick Howser trophy and the Golden Spikes award, which are both given to the best college player in the country. By the time Bryant re-entered the draft in 2013, there was no doubt he would be selected in the first round.
10 Rizzo: Struggled In San Diego
These days it seems like Rizzo is all but guaranteed a roster spot on the all-star team virtually every season. However, it took him some time to adjust to major league pitching. In fact, he didn't play very well at all during his stint with the San Diego Padres. In 2011, his first season in San Diego, Rizzo had an abysmal .141 batting average and struck out 46 times, in 128 plate appearances. The Padres would go on to acquire first basemen Yonder Alonso via trade, who would replace Rizzo on the depth chart. The Padres General Manager at the time, Jed Hoyer, said this about the future star during his time with the organization, Rizzo " worked hard, never made excuses, and endeared himself to his teammates". In this case, that hard work eventually paid off, although he never had much success with the Padres.
9 Bryant: Turned Down High School Salutatorian
Not only is Bryant an amazing young baseball player, he's also exceptionally bright. He attended Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, Nevada where he was a straight "A" student. Although he did wind up getting a "B" in calculus on one occasion. He was going to be awarded Salutatorian of his high school class, an award given for academic excellence. However, when Kris Bryant learned that a female student, who had also worked very hard, was upset about not receiving the honor, he graciously agreed to step aside. It sounds like the young superstar was quite the gentlemen in his high school days. As it turns out, Bryant would go on to receive his fair share of awards anyway, including National League MVP and MLB's Rookie of The Year.
8 Rizzo: Drafted By The Boston The Red Sox
While it's fairly well known that Rizzo briefly played for the San Diego Padres, many fans may not have known that he was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox. He was selected in the 6th round and received a $325,000 signing bonus from the Red Sox's organization. While he never made to the Sox's big league roster, Rizzo did play for several of their minor league affiliates. Rizzo hit 25 home runs, to go with 100 RBIs in 2010, during his tenure in the minors. He would go on to be traded to the Padres along with several other players, in order for the Red Sox to acquire the services of Adrian Gonzales. It would have been interesting to see how things might have turned out if Rizzo ended up staying in Boston.
7 Bryant: Grew Up Playing With Bryce Harper
Bryant grew up in the same area of Las Vegas as another big league star, Bryce Harper. The two had been playing in the same baseball circles since they were 9 years old. While Bryant is known for being quiet and somewhat reserved, Harper, in contrast, is often brash and outspoken. When Bryce Harper was asked about his former childhood acquaintance he replied, "When we were younger, we used to call him 'Silk.' He was so smooth with everything he did. He played third, played short, played a little outfield when we were younger. He pitched, of course, and he always hit very well." It looks likes"Silk" has brought his smooth ways with him to Chicago.
6 Rizzo: Started His Own Cancer Research Foundation
Having survived his own battle with cancer, Rizzo decided it was time to give something back. He would go on to start The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation in 2012. Besides being focused on cancer research the organization also supports families in their efforts to combat the disease. The operation is run exclusively by the World Series Champion's family and friends. The foundation is a non-profit organization. Rizzo can also be found visiting children's hospital during his free time. It's always nice when those we achieve success are able to contribute something positive to society and Rizzo is doing just that.
5 Bryant: Dad Sold The Family Business To Coach Kris
Mike Bryant, Kris Bryant's father, was able to recognize his son's talent at a very early age. He recalls pitching to Kris for the very first time at the age of 5;"The first pitch I threw to Kris, he just absolutely ripped it into the outfield. He probably hit it maybe 30 feet into the outfield, it was hit hard and deep and high and a beautiful, smooth swing." Mike knew that his son had a good shot at playing in the majors someday, so he decided to sell the family's patio furniture business, in order to have more time to coach the future MVP. It turned out to a pretty good decision. As a reward for his dedication, Mike once again got to pitch to Kris, this time in the 2015 Home Run Derby.
4 Rizzo: Played For Italy In The 2013 World Baseball Classic
Despite never having lived in the country, Rizzo, whose family comes from the Sicilian town of Ciminna, opted to play for Team Italy in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Prior to the series, Rizzo said; "To throw on an international jersey (will be fun)". “Just growing up watching the Olympics, the World Cups. That will be cool although it is not USA. I think it will still be cool to be in something like this.” The Cubs management supported Rizzo's decision. However, even with Rizzo on the team, Italy would go on to be eliminated in the preliminary round. Oh well, Italy may have better luck in 2017.
3 Bryant: 6th Player Ever To Win ROY and MVP In Two Seasons
After winning the National League Rookie of The Year and Most Valuable Player awards in his first two seasons. Bryant became only the 6th player ever to win both accolades in his first two years as a pro. He joins an elite list of company, which features names like Cal Ripken Jr., Dustin Pedroia, and Ryan Howard. Bryant releases the following statement after being named MVP: "This year has certainly been one of the best years of my life. I mean, winning a World Series, now this. It's just icing on the cake." If Bryant continues on this career trajectory he has a good shot of one day being enshrined in Cooperstown. After a championship drought that lasted over a century, Bryant has the Cubs poised for success in the years to come.
2 Rizzo: His Brother Played College Football
Standing 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighing around 240 pounds, Anthony Rizzo is no small man. It only makes sense that he would have a brother who played college football. Anthony's brother John was an offensive lineman for the Florida Atlantic Owls. John was part of an offensive line in 2007, which only allowed an average of 1.5 sacks per game. That season the Owl's offensive line was ranked #13 in the nation. John who is the older of the two brothers is 6 foot 4 and weighed about 300 pounds during his playing days, so he's quite literally Anthony's big brother. If the two ever wanted to try to make a run as pro wrestlers, the Rizzo brothers would certainly make a formidable duo.
1 Bryant: Chose Anthony Rizzo As His Groomsmen
Besides being two of the most dangerous hitters in the Chicago Cubs lineup, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo are also good friends off the playing field. In fact, Bryant even asked his teammate to be a Groomsmen in his wedding. Bryant had this to say regarding the matter "Anthony Rizzo’s actually going to be in the wedding, which is cool. He’s one of my really good friends. So it’ll be fun". It sounds like Rizzo did indeed have a good time. Rizzo would go on to tweet "Had and amazing time at Mr. and Mrs. Bryant's wedding last night!" It must be great to have a teammate who's also one of your best friends.
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