Cleat Geeks

Kris Bryant Thanks Marcus Hanel

Kris Bryant hit his first home run May 9th when the Cubs played the Brewers in Milwaukee. The ball landed in the Brewers’ bullpen where longtime bullpen catcher, Marcus Hanel got a hold of it.

But he knew what he would do with the ball when it landed in the bullpen. “We’re all family and that’s a cherished moment. I’m not going to hold ransom for that,” Hanel said. “I mean, yeah, I wish I was a fan, because that would have been cool. But that’s a moment for him and for baseball. You give those things back.” The following morning, Bryant sent a clubhouse attendant to deliver a signed baseball for Hanel. The ball read “To Koos” – Hanel’s nickname, CEqIl3qWYAA6W2M“Thanks for getting the HR ball!” The number one prospect had gone homer-less in his first 20 Major League games, but on that night he connected against Kyle Lohse in the third inning, despite the Brewers winning, it was a game Kris Bryant will never forget. “It’s definitely a confidence builder to get the first one out of the way,” Bryant said Sunday morning. “The Spring Training homers don’t count, so it’s cool to get the first one out of the way. I’m just looking forward to building some more confidence and see where I’m at in these next games.”

There was so much buildup for Bryant’s big moment that Marcus Hanel knew he had something special when the ball hit the back wall of the Brewers’ bullpen. Visiting clubhouse attendant, Ben Wilkes came to fetch the ball. “I go ‘I ain’t giving it up! I want a bat, a jersey!’ I really played it up. But he played along. He said, ‘I already told Bryant you want his firstborn named after you.’” Ben Wilkes took the baseball to a Major League Baseball official for 138007093_TJE33 Bullpenauthentication then took it to the Cubs’ clubhouse.

When Bryant spoke to reporters after the game, the ball was already sitting on a shelf in his locker. Even if it’s not a milestone home run, Hanel has a routine for the baseballs that find their way in the Brewers’ bullpen. He pockets the ball, grabs a decoy from his equipment bag and tosses it up into the stands for a fan. Then he puts the ball in an empty cup, puts tape across the top, labels the owner, and has each ball authenticated. “I’ll just keep it. I’ll put it somewhere in my room or something,” Bryant said. “Those are always special, the first hit. You know I broke my bat on my first hit, so I’ve got to keep my bat, too. It’ll be on the mantel somewhere.”

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