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Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant and Red Bull are joining forces to develop a highly immersive obstacle course, complete with skill and trick-shot challenges that he hopes could one day become an event at MLB’s All-Star week showcasing the game’s best all-around athletes.
An all-around effort to improve a players swing, throwing and coordination, it's the sort of thing you might see in a skills competition during NBA or NHL All-Star weekend. Or maybe even on American Ninja Warrior.
"I feel like you could compare it that," Bryant said to Yahoo Sports. "I feel like their challenges would be a little harder. I train a lot for baseball, but it's a different kind of training for them. Honestly, I feel like Red Bull always comes up with these really cool ideas that a lot of other companies don't think of. They're always kind of ahead of the curve and it makes doing stuff like this really fun because you don't really see this type of stuff in baseball."
Bryant admits he did have some approval in the process and design, but was pleasantly caught off guard by the difficulty of the course itself. The first task measured hitting accuracy, with Bryant striking targets strategically placed at different heights. Even for the World Series champion, it's easier said than done.
Another challenge consists of players throwing baseballs approximately 25 yards out as hard as they can through circles at varying peaks. The goal is to sink 10 balls in three minutes. That seemed to be an easier feat for the new dad than the first task.
"I think anyone would agree this looks easy, but also sort of nerve-racking considering you're on the clock," Bryant joked.
In all seriousness, the 2016 NL MVP credited the prototype as a great way to diversify a workout, and expect him to incorporate it into his own routine from here on out.
"I think something like this would be a quick way to see how my swing is improving or if my throwing needs work. I'm always looking to get better and if that means doing something like this, count me in."
As for whether the league should formally introduce a similar concept during future All-Star festivities, consider Bryant's participation in the test course as an endorsement.
"I think it would be cool to see the league add some other skills competition because you have these really cool, young players that can do things other than hit a home run on the baseball field. So, I think that would attract a lot of new fans and people to the game of baseball."
Bryant opens up about NCAA rule change, sticky stuff
As a former college athlete, Bryant understands that performing well on the field and being a marketable person off the diamond both contribute to your earning potential later on. When asked his thoughts on the NCAA officially allowing players to earn money off their name, image and likeness, Bryant lamented that he "missed the boat," but ultimately agreed the change — pushed forward by a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling — is a long time coming.
"I'm not bitter about it, but it's great that they're doing that and allowing players to capitalize on their image," Bryant said. "It's like, the school is doing it, why can't the players do it? I think it's totally fair and if you're good enough to get endorsement deals that early in your college career, then it prepares you well for when you do turn pro and most importantly, how to treat those around you."
Bryant also recently spoke out in favor of MLB's crackdown on sticky stuff, and expanded on why he's "all for keeping it out of the game."
"You want a fair playing field, you want hitters to be able to succeed, pitchers to use their natural ability to succeed or fail. I hope they fail against me," he said with a laugh. "But, I think it's progressive and looking forward to keeping the game growing and evolving. This is a good start."
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