Lucas Giolito has been ganged up on for his political views. Argued with, laughed at, called names.
“Snowflake,” for one.
Aren’t we all just so clever nowadays?
But we’re not referring to the 24-year-old White Sox pitcher’s experiences out in the world. No, we mean in the baseball clubhouse. It happened in the minor leagues. It happened after he broke into the majors with the Nationals. It happens with the Sox, too.
“As far as my views, they differ from those of a lot of baseball players,” Giolito said, stretched out on a dugout bench several hours before a mid-June game at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Giolito follows former NFL players Chris Long and Chris Kluwe on social media. He’s a big admirer of Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle. And he hopes to someday soon join the ranks of athletes using their voices prominently in support of causes and policies that support those who are marginalized or discriminated against.
He figures he probably ought to complete at least one All-Star-caliber season first, though.
“I’d like to build some credentials first by continuing on this path of success,” said the author of a breakout first half that’s all but certain to land him on the American League roster in Cleveland. “But I want to get there — because I really don’t like it when people make judgments without having anything to back it with, without having any of their own personal life experience or talking with someone who had that life experience.”
Giolito is no single-issue voter, but nothing ranks higher on his list than immigration. And that’s in large part because no one in his childhood outside of his parents and brother held a bigger piece of his heart than his beloved Berta.
Berta Reyna crossed the border into Texas illegally when Giolito, living in Santa Monica, California, in the very comfortable home of actress Lindsay Frost and Electronic Arts executive producer Rick Giolito, was a baby. She’d come all the way from El Salvador — alone — and continued on to Southern California, where she somehow became Lucas’ nanny.
“It was harrowing,” Frost said of Berta’s journey. “But we relied on her. She helped us so much, and we love her so much.”
She is an American citizen now. With her grown son, Danny, she attended Giolito’s wedding last December.
“There were reasons she basically had to escape El Salvador,” Giolito said. “She basically was on foot all the way up through Central America and across Mexico. Her story is unbelievable. She had to go through hell to get over here and make a better life.
“Sometimes when I see the stuff about ‘illegal immigrants are bad,’ da-da-da — especially with the current [presidential] regime — I just shake my head at it because you don’t know what these people go through. My family was lucky enough to find her. She was lucky enough to find my family. She lived in our home and had a huge part in raising me from when I was a tiny baby until probably 12 or 13.”
Rick Giolito believes Reyna had a “tremendous influence” on how his son views other people and the world.
“Lucas is kind to all people, empathetic, treats everyone with respect,” he said. “He makes an effort to get others around him to understand that people come from different environments. Even though he grew up in a fairly comfortable one, when he hears things that are less than kind about anyone — gays, minorities, immigrants — he has more of an empathetic view because he understands that giving people a hand up is better than a put-down.”
Braves pitcher Max Fried played high school ball with Giolito and remains one of his closest friends. On many occasions, he got to witness a young Giolito in action off the field.
“There has never been an instance where I’ve heard him bite his tongue if it’s something he believes in or if he feels someone is being degraded,” Fried said. “Lucas has always been very opinionated and very compassionate.”
Sox teammate Tim Anderson is, like Giolito, having a breakout season. The two have formed a friendship whose foundation is a mutual interest in each other’s background and perspective.
“He gets it, man,” Anderson said. “We talk a lot about certain things. We talk about, like, being black and how it is for me. And I ask him questions, too, like how it was when he was growing up. I think that helps him understand both sides.”
Outside the clubhouse and right in the heart of it, Giolito will use his voice. It’s just who he is.
“Oh, my God, it’s unbelievable when someone doesn’t want to know about another person’s experiences,” he said. “I think it’s an amazing thing.
“Look at all our Latin players, too. I see all that and say, ‘Man, why would I not want to learn and try to see how all these people got to where we are today?’ ’’