We’ll dive deeper into parts of the conversation in a second, but if you’re still deciding if you’re interested, take a look at the very first exchange of the interview, and tell me you’re not laughing:
Question: Did you two ever meet in San Diego when Bryant was playing at the University of San Diego and Rizzo was with the San Diego Padres?
Rizzo: “He knew me.’’
Bryant: “I didn’t know him.’’
Rizzo: “He came to see me play.’’
Bryant:“He was a struggling prospect.’’
Rizzo: “He was sitting in the nosebleeds and saw me play.’’
Bryant: “OK, there was a $5 college night. I think it was on a Tuesday, and they put us all the way up in the right field deck, but I don’t remember seeing him play at all.’’
Rizzo: “That’s what he says.’’
That is just … I want to be friends with them.
The rest of the interview has a number of other similarly funny anecdotes, like how Rizzo forced Bryant to pay for dinner the first time they met because he was the “scared guy who just got drafted.”
On a more serious note, Rizzo addresses the seriousness and sadness of the shooting at his former high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and the impact that’s had on his perspective: “The sad thing is that we’re all numb to it. You hear school shooting. You hear bombers. You hear all sorts of things. You keep going on with your day because we’re so numb to it until it’s something huge and everybody starts paying attention to it.”
While I can certainly understand Rizzo’s frustration, it’s important to credit him that he’s not letting folks become numb this time, or letting it fall off our radar. Seriously, when’s the last time a shooting of this magnitude has stayed at the top of headlines so long after it’s happened. Obviously, they ALL deserve to get this much attention and generate more change, but it’s just not the nature of our current reality. Rizzo, for all his efforts, and speeches, and recognition, and standing out has been a big part of that – at a minimum – in the city of Chicago.
Nearer the end of the interview, both Rizzo and Bryant discuss the negative affects and impacts of social media and the way the sport is portrayed by various outlets. More specifically, Bryant seems to think that there’s too much negativity and not enough cheering: “You walk into a big-league clubhouse, you have SportsCenter on. You have MLB Network on. Who’s hot? Who’s not? Why he’s doing good? Why he’s doing bad? Why he can’t hit this pitch? It’s almost like overloaded, and I stay away from it.” Bryant continued, “We’re trying to get kids to play baseball again, with pace of play and all of this, but if I’m a kid and I’m watching a network talking about certain players doing bad, that would kind of push me away from the sport. I don’t want to play a sport when they talk about me like this.”
While I can agree with Bryant on that fact, you’d think it wouldn’t have affected him, personally, yet, but you’d be surprised how he sees himself: “I sucked last year. It was such a letdown.”
Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers and was worth 6.7 WAR, while posting the highest walk rate of his career (14.3%). In fact, that was the 29th most valuable (by WAR) season of a Cubs player all-time, so … keep letting us down, please!