How will Kris Bryant be greeted in 'boring' St. Louis?

Kris Bryant fanned the flames of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry this winter, but he doesn't seem too concerned about his reception in St. Louis. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

ST. LOUIS -- Perhaps St. Louis sports fans will be distracted by the Stanley Cup Final, forgetting that the Chicago Cubs and Kris Bryant will be in town for a weekend series. It's the first time Bryant will be in St. Louis since famously calling the city "boring" during a comedy sketch at the team's annual fan convention this winter.

Hoping the viral moment will be forgotten could be wishful thinking, though. Bryant and his teammates are prepared to hear it from the loyal Cardinals fan base.

"Of course it's going to be not great," Bryant said with a smile Wednesday. "I hope they boo all of us. We want the games to be a nice rivalry and intense. It's always nice going there to play because there's a ton of people -- a lot of our fans show up, too. It makes it fun.

"There's no hard feelings."

The Cubs have several former Cardinals who can help shed light on what Bryant can expect at Busch Stadium come Friday night, including infielder Daniel Descalso. He played for St. Louis from 2010 to 2014.

"I feel like people were pretty upset with him, especially when Yadi [Molina] defended the city," Descalso said. "They love Yadi over there, so they're going to have his back. They're very passionate."

Not long after the comedy sketch hit the internet, Molina came to his city's defense in a rather aggressive manner. He said "only stupid players and losers" make fun of other cities, setting the stage for another intense season series.

Bryant and Molina saw each other at Wrigley Field when the teams met earlier in the month, but there wasn't much interaction, according to Bryant.

"I don't hate the guy," Bryant said. "I think he's a great player, great catcher and leader of his team. I get over things pretty quick. ... I don't know him, but I can't imagine not saying 'what's up' to him my whole career."

Bryant doesn't want to escalate the rhetoric, but that doesn't mean his teammates aren't having fun with it. The Cubs had the day off in St. Louis on Thursday, meaning Bryant had to find something to do. Some suggested the Gateway Arch, but that's not exactly his thing, as the 6-foot-5 infielder/outfielder is a bit claustrophobic. Instead, Bryant indicated he was just going to look for a good place to eat.

"Need some suggestions, though," he said before the off day.

Adding another layer to the story is Bryant's partner in crime, former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, who also disparaged St. Louis during the comedy bit, claiming he would never have signed there if given the opportunity as a free agent. Dempster is slated to call Friday's game for a Facebook broadcast, so Bryant might not be the only one to feel the wrath of Cardinals fans.

"I might go walk around and say hi to everyone," the almost-always-sarcastic Dempster said in a phone interview Thursday. "I wonder what he went to go do on the off day. Probably fun and exciting."

You could picture the smirk on Dempster's face as he said that final line. He's never been afraid to needle friend or foe, so he has plenty of experience hearing boos.

"I was pretty good at getting booed, even from my home crowd," he said. "I think KB is smart and he'll handle it like he's supposed to."

When informed that Dempster was going to be at the game, Descalso deadpanned, "They should make him trot out there, too."

The former Cubs pitcher suggested a tip of the helmet by Bryant to the fans if the razzing gets really loud, while teammate Kyle Schwarber thinks a simple smile will keep things light and show that the crowd isn't getting to him.

"When we went back to Cleveland in 2017 [after the Cubs beat the Indians in the 2016 World Series], I got booed a little bit," Schwarber recalled. "It's more hecklers than anything, out in left field.

"I think it's cool. You must be doing something right to be booed."

And therein is the reason Bryant garnered so much attention. Former Cub Alfonso Soriano famously told a teammate, "They don't boo nobodies." The bigger the star, the louder the boos.

"Looking back, it was the middle of January, not a whole lot going on," Descalso said of the skit that sparked all this. "[St. Louis fans] liked to boo Brandon Phillips every time he came to the plate over the years, maybe [Bryant] will get the same treatment."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon remembers the first time he was soundly booed. It came from the home crowd on the final day of the season.

"My first really good booing was as interim manager [in 1999]," Maddon said. "Eight and two-thirds innings for Jarrod Washburn, pitching a shutout, at Anaheim. [The visiting Rangers] were pinch-hitting and I brought in Lou Pote to replace Washburn. Jarrod did not appreciate me taking him out. The game had no deciding factor on anything. Retrospectively, I probably would have left him out for at least one more hitter, but I took him out. I was roundly booed by the Anaheim faithful and I kind of liked it. I had never been roundly booed before. I took that as a good sign."

Bryant and the Cubs will take that same approach this weekend, recognizing that they are part of an intense rivalry that sees the Cubs in first place and the Cardinals 4½ games behind them. Bryant would rather focus just on baseball at this point, even if fans this weekend have other things when he steps to the plate.

"I was generally just joking and having a good time with Dempster," Bryant said, reiterating his take from January on the sketch.

Descalso added: "We'll probably laugh at it. We know there is nothing malicious."