San Francisco Chronicle

Newest Giant still has prized Bonds autograph

- By John Shea

As a kid, Kris Bryant was on vacation with his family in San Diego and found himself at Qualcomm Stadium taking in a PadresGian­ts game.

Then he saw Barry Bonds, and his world changed.

“Barry Bonds is my favorite player,” Bryant said Sunday, two days after the Giants acquired him in a trade with the Cubs.

“I still have the autograph my mom went

and bought at the mall. It’s in my room in her house, but the autograph is fading a little bit. Hopefully, I run into him and he can do me another one.”

The Giants sent prospects Alexander Canario and Caleb Kilian to the Cubs for Bryant, who homered in his Giants debut, a 53 win over Houston. Before the game, he took grounders with another celebrated infielder, third baseman Evan Longoria, who’s expected to return soon from the injured list.

Bryant, 29, who was raised in Las Vegas, shared a precious story about how he fell for Bonds at that game in San Diego.

“I was so shy. I didn’t want to ask for his autograph,” Bryant said. “There was a ton of people around me screaming. So I was like, ‘Hopefully, he’s going to come over here and start signing.’ He never ended up coming over. I didn’t get him there, but I said, ‘Mom, I really want this.’ So my mom bought it for me.”

It was a birthday present. Bryant remembers being 7 or 8, and he started wearing Bonds’ 25 jersey. At least until Bryant got to Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, where he had to change numbers.

“I wore 23 in high school because they didn’t make a 25 jersey,” said Bryant, who took 17 with the Cubs because 23 was retired for Ryne Sandberg.

In San Francisco, 23 was available, thanks to thirdbase coach Ron Wotus, who gave up the number so Bryant could wear it. Wotus is now 8 — he communicat­ed with Hunter Pence to see if that was cool, and Pence said absolutely.

Bryant joining the Giants seemed to be his destiny. Not just because there was so much talk before Friday’s trade deadline that he’d be a perfect fit on the roster, but because it was something he had been considerin­g for a while.

A free agent after the season, Bryant already is considerin­g the possibilit­y of remaining a Giant long term. Longoria has one more year on his contract, but Bryant can play many positions including both corner infield spots and all three spots in the outfield.

Sunday, he expressed how much he loves playing center field.

“It’s definitely enticing,” Bryant said of sticking around with the Giants beyond 2021. “It’s a spot that’s close to home. It’s a spot that … I was talking to my wife when it happened. We both thought that I would always end up here somehow some way.

“It ended up being a trade. But yeah, so far, so good. Everything has been super profession­al. Such a classy organizati­on. Everybody who’s reached out to me so far, I’ve been absolutely blown away, and I feel unbelievab­ly wanted. It’s such an amazing feeling.”

So what was it about Bonds that made a young Bryant adore him?

“I just love watching Barry’s bat swag,” he said. “Everything about him was fun to watch. Now I’m here. It’s kind of weird. Coming full circle, and now I’m in the big leagues with the San Francisco Giants.”

At first, Bryant was a Bonds fan. Then he became a Giants fan.

“He was the player. Then I started following the team,” Bryant said. “Jeff Kent and guys like that. Just being a baseball fan in general, it’s hard not to like a guy who hit all those home runs.’

 ?? Photos by Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle ?? San Francisco Giants’ Kris Bryant, recently acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, is interviewe­d before his first game with the franchise at Oracle Park.
Photos by Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle San Francisco Giants’ Kris Bryant, recently acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, is interviewe­d before his first game with the franchise at Oracle Park.
 ??  ?? Bryant took grounders at third base with Evan Longoria (right) in practice before the game.
Bryant took grounders at third base with Evan Longoria (right) in practice before the game.

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