CLEVELAND: At a time when most 42-year-olds are starting to feel their age playing slow-pitch softball on Sunday morning, Jason Giambi is diving headlong into first base to beat out a hit in the eighth inning of the Indians’ 14-2 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The seven home runs hit by the Tribe in Tuesday night’s win stand out as the highlight of the game. Or maybe not. If you were sitting in the home dugout when Giambi seemingly lost his mind, his slide into first might be what you will remember the longest.
“When a guy loves the game as much as he does, it rubs off on everybody,” Nick Swisher said Wednesday. “It showed he’s the baddest dude on the planet, for sure.”
Not only is Giambi the club’s backup designated hitter, he is father confessor and adviser on how to play the game and how to behave in the clubhouse.
“For all the talk about what to do about sliding [or not] into first,” Indians manager Terry Francona said, “in one quick 90-foot segment, Giambi showed what he’s about. Our dugout erupted.
“As he ran down to first, he had 24 guys pushing him, and that’s a nice feeling.”
Giambi obviously didn’t look at his 90-foot segment as a heroic act when he said afterward, “I felt like Mr. Potato Head, like all my parts were everywhere.”
Michael Bourn is on the disabled list after suffering a deep cut in his right index finger that required five stitches to close after sliding head first trying to beat out a hit. But players don’t ordinarily think about the risk.
“I just smelled a hit,” Giambi said. “I don’t care how old I am, I didn’t have second thoughts until I got up.”
Giambi didn’t think about it as he ran, but upon reflection, he knew he did something that inspired his teammates.
“Hopefully, it sends a message to the team,” he said. “I’ve done that very few times and when I was a lot younger.”
Giambi saw the reaction of his teammates immediately.
“They were excited and fired up,” he said.
“If you’re a young player and saw that and you don’t run balls out,” Francona said, “you should be humiliated.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.