CHICAGO (AP) — The owner made a beeline through the Cubs' clubhouse looking for his rookie slugger.
"Hey, take it easy," Tom Ricketts told Kris Bryant, trying not to laugh. "That thing costs a lot of money."
"Gotcha," Bryant smiled, trying not to blush.
"That thing" is a brand-new, 4,000-square-foot Jumbotron atop the bleachers and the ivy-covered outfield wall in left, part of Wrigley Field's $500 million make over.
In the eighth inning Tuesday, with Chicago trailing Washington by a run, Bryant turned around a changeup and launched it 463 feet into the sky.
"We thought it was over the board," Cubs manager Joe Maddon recalled. "Kind of got everyone stirring."
That the home run — Bryant's seventh this season — tied a game the Cubs went on to win and was good enough for a fan base thrilled with second place in the NL Central, even if it's only May. That it hit the upper face of the video board while Bryant's own mug was prominently displayed made it a perfect tableau for the 23-year-old fast becoming the face of a franchise completing a makeover of its own.
Bryant has been in the big leagues just five weeks, but he's making an outsized impression.
He is hitting a solid .275 with a .393 on-base percentage, along with 31 RBIs in 38 games.
Pairing power with discipline at the plate, he makes nearly every at-bat a test of wills. Armed with scouting reports, pitchers offer precious little to hit.
"It's the same game I've played my whole life," Bryant said. "I'm trying to hit it in the air. The pitchers want me to hit it on the ground. Up here, that means adjusting not just at-bat to at-bat, but pitch to pitch."
Cubs general manager Theo Epstein was looking for a "dynamic" player when he used the second pick in the draft on Bryant two years ago. Even he's been surprised, though, by how quickly the third baseman has adapted.
"It used to be once around the league before pitchers had enough information to figure out what to throw a hitter. Today, by the time you've gone around the Pacific Coast League once, there's a pretty thorough scouting report," he said. "What's unique about Kris is how fast he picks up on even the subtle changes."
Bryant's low-key demeanor has been almost as impressive. He's so humble he's already getting questions about how he stays that way. Asked whether that towering shot the Nationals was his longest ever, Bryant demurred. Asked whether it was his best since joining the Cubs, he instead called it the "most meaningful one."
Maddon, on the other hand, is already planning for the next one.
"We should have somebody program that board to explode," he said. "I think we'll see that a few more times from this kid."