MESA, Ariz. — Throughout the first week of games this spring, every time infield prospect Trent Giambrone hit a home run or doubled home a run, a Cubs beat writer looked up from his keyboard in the press box and said, “I thought that guy got traded.”
It wasn’t especially funny, definitely not when it seemed to happen every day.
But Giambrone laughed when he heard the story, because he gets it.
He lived it.
Flashback to Kodak, Tennessee, last July 29. It’s two days before major-league baseball’s trade deadline — which is the last thing on Giambrone’s mind when he doubles in the first inning of the Southern League game and his hamstring tightens up.
But a few minutes after the inning ended and he’d headed to the clubhouse following a quick chat and half-hug with the manager and trainer, Giambrone got his first taste of the business side of baseball in the Twitter age.
“I was literally in the [ice] tub and had my phone,” he said, “and all of a sudden my phone just started going berserk.”
Once the “hugs” in the dugout were spotted and Giambrone exited the game, it was a rumor-mill free-for-all, with Cubs writers in St. Louis trying to track down the “trade” involving Giambrone, and national writers soon trying to follow the scent as well.
False alarm. The Cubs eventually informed writers in St. Louis it was just a hamstring.
As for those gonna-miss-you-guys hugs in the dugout? Turns out Giambrone just has a propensity for hugging people.
“He is a hugger, for sure,” Tennessee teammate Zack Short said. “It’s pretty funny though.”
If Giambrone, 25, got a quick lesson in baseball business that day last summer, he’s getting a crash course in the majors this spring as he navigates his first big-league camp.
“I’m just embracing where I am,” said the second baseman who manager Joe Maddon lists among the depth candidates behind 25th-man infielder David Bote.
“That’s the main thing, and making the most out of every opportunity I get,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys in this clubhouse that have shared their knowledge with us younger players, and it’s really, really cool just to be able to soak all that stuff in. Just being here with these guys is absolutely incredible.”
Giambrone, a 25th-round draft pick out of Delta State in Mississippi in 2016, hit 19 homers in 128 minor-league games last year — and two more in a torrid first week of games this spring.
“I like him a lot,” Maddon said, who talked about bat speed, power, ability to hit to all fields and a good fielding ability with room to get better.
“He’s definitely one of those dudes you have to be on the field with consistently to appreciate him. But once he gets his opportunity on a big-league level, he’s going to open eyes just like David did. I really think David Bote’s a perfect comp for this guy.”
Bote came out of nowhere last season, opening eyes in spring training before a debut in April that led to an attention-grabbing 74 big-league games, including a game-winning grand slam against the Nationals with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning on ‘‘Sunday Night Baseball.’’
Giambrone said he’s not thinking past this week, much less thinking that far ahead, that fast, that big.
After all, he got a lot of unexpected insight into how things work in the game more than six months before he got a locker in the same clubhouse as Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo.
“I would think the biggest lesson is just be yourself and not worry about the rest and all that stuff,” Giambrone said.
“When all that happened, it’s just like an eye-opener to see how many other people are talking about you,” he added. “It’s pretty cool, but at the same time I’m happy to be where I am and I’m just embracing that.”