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Dungeons & Dragons? An ACT in the 30s? Ten things you don’t know about Lucas Giolito

The White Sox’ ace spills on basketball futility, his gilded upbringing, the college-admissions bribery scandal and more.

Lucas and Ariana Giolito
Courtesy of Ariana Giolito

White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito grew up in a show-business family. We’d give you the details — from soaps to ‘‘Seinfeld’’ — but why bother? If you’ve followed Giolito’s career at all since the Sox acquired him from the Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade heading into the 2017 season, chances are you’ve heard or read all about it already. And if you haven’t, well, that’s why God invented Google.

Here are 10 things about Giolito that you don’t know:

1. His favorite pitcher is Justin Verlander

This has been true since Giolito’s high school days in Southern California, but the feeling deepened, believe it or not, while he was throwing his first career shutout in Houston on May 24. Why? Because just knowing Verlander was watching him from the Astros’ dugout was an intoxicating thrill.

Guess whom Giolito will get to meet a little over a week from now in Cleveland assuming both right-handers are American League All-Stars?

And guess who already knows Verlander?

“He’s a member of my father-in-law’s country club, Bel-Air Country Club,” Giolito said. “Maybe I can say to him, ‘Hey, man, maybe I’ll see you at Bel-Air this offseason.’ I don’t know, something like that.”

2. But his all-time No. 1 guy? Bob Gibson

Giolito knows what some of you are thinking. What does a 24-year-old know of the great Gibson?

He has pored over the numbers, read the accounts and watched a good bit of film. The bottom line is Gibson — the ultimate intimidator — had in surplus all the intangible things Giolito at times has lacked.

“He was like, ‘[Expletive] you,’ ” Giolito said. “He was out there, he was firing that heater under their hands — he didn’t care. He was so dominant, they had to change the rules of the game and bring the mound down because of him.

“That’s what I want to emulate, the I-don’t-care attitude. I want to throw my heater at the top of the zone, and you know what? Just try to hit it. That’s why he’s my all-time favorite.”

3. He was a terrible athlete

A good coach gives it to a player straight, as Giolito’s did in high school when explaining why he’d only pitch and no longer play first base or hit: “We’re afraid you’ll hurt yourself.”

Max Fried, Giolito’s teammate then and now a Braves starter, was a three-sport standout.

“Outside of pitching, Lucas was very clumsy,” Fried said. “He’s the guy who will trip over nothing. He’s kind of one of those cases. It was a miracle that he looked like he knew what he was doing on the mound.”

Basketball was a disaster. Giolito towered near 6 feet as a pre-teen playing on 8½-foot rims, but still he panicked when the ball found his hands at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica.

“I was super-unathletic, super-lanky,” he said. “I was weird.”

Giolito reading a national news magazine, as children do.
Courtesy of Ariana Giolito

4. His adolescence in four words: “I was nerd cool”

Giolito was gangly. He wore braces. He had a head of what he calls “mushroom hair.” But that wasn’t the worst of it. Oh, no.

“I kind of dabbled in Dungeons & Dragons for a while there,” he said.

He read a ton — George Orwell’s dystopian themes were a bit complicated for a 10-year-old — and found his groove as a reader, beginning with H.G. Wells’ and Orson Scott Card’s works, within the sci-fi realm.

Anime hit the mark, too. And his biggest “addiction” (his word) of all? The video game “Rocket League.” That persisted until he was pitching in Class AA, when then-girlfriend Ariana — who married Giolito last December — finally asked him: “Seriously, what are you doing?”

5. He got a 30 on his ACT

Baseball was so intense at the elite Harvard-Westlake private school in Studio City that Giolito felt he had to choose between being a great pitcher and being a great student. Lots of homework was skipped along the way, but still he was an engaged learner, always eager to share opinions in class. He finished with a 3.3 GPA.

“There were kids who excelled at everything — sports, academics, in six clubs, played an instrument — but I don’t know how they did that. Maybe it was Adderall or something. I think it had a lot to do with privilege. A lot of kids came from affluent backgrounds, and their parents had, like, 17 tutors on hand and took care of whatever their kids needed help with.”

He has thoughts on the college-admissions bribery scandal that rocked Hollywood in 2019.

“I think it’s despicable, but at the same time, I’m not surprised at all,” he said. “I was there. I saw it day in and day out, all the time.”

Draft day, with dad Rick, mom Lindsay and Ariana.
Courtesy of Ariana Giolito

6. He was overcome — with relief — when he was drafted

Giolito entered his senior season in 2012 as a top-five draft prospect, but he was shut down for most of it after injuring the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. It was widely expected — correctly, it turns out — that he would need Tommy John surgery before throwing his first professional pitch. His stock wavered.

When the Nationals took him at No. 16 in June of that year, he sobbed on the couch at home. Dad Rick crouched on the floor in front of him, cradling his head. Mom Lindsay (Frost, the actress) and Ariana sat on either side of him and held him, too. Five weeks later, he and the Nats would agree on a signing bonus of nearly $3 million.

“They weren’t tears of [joy],” Rick Giolito said. “It was pure relief.”

7. It’s OK if you talk to him when he’s pitching

Earlier in his career — even in 2018, when he had one of the worst seasons of any pitcher in the majors — Giolito tried to do what a starting pitcher is supposed to do between innings. He’d sit in the dugout, stare straight ahead and do his best to stay in game mode. No chit-chat. No b.s.

Oh, please. That’s way out the window now.

“Just can’t do it,” he said. “That’s just not me. I’m very goofy. I get totally ADD in the dugout, walking around, talking to everybody all the time. I watch the team hit. I’m, like, involved. I’ll talk to [catcher James] McCann about the game plan for the next inning, talk to hitters about how they’re doing against the other guys pitching, talk to other pitchers about what I’m doing. I’ll talk about anything. That’s how I stay loose.”

Lucas and Louie. Is a buddy movie in the offing?
Courtesy of Ariana Giolito

8. He’s an animal lover

The Giolitos are big believers in the growing life-skills trend of pairing hard-to-adopt dogs with prison inmates and other institutionalized individuals, especially men.

“It teaches about compassion and patience and bonding,” Lucas said. “A lot of these guys go on and learn from their mistakes.”

He and Ariana have a 2-year-old rescue mutt, Louie, that has kept the big guy company often this season while Ariana was in her first year of veterinary school at UC Davis and completing a rotation in equine medicine. She lined up a summer job in Chicago as a vet tech. They plan to become increasingly involved in animal-related causes.

9. He digs Chicago, too

River North, Streeterville, Navy Pier . . .

“I’m always out in that area walking around,” Giolito said. “I love Chicago, personally. It’s my favorite city, and I’ve been to most major cities in America now. Well, in the summertime it’s my favorite city. Maybe not in, like, winter and stuff.”

But he isn’t just about the city’s famously fashionable neighborhoods.

“The South Side is obviously a lot different from where I grew up,” he said. “It’s grittier, working class. It’s cool. I like representing this.

“L.A. is a weird place. It’s nice to get out of there and experience different cultures and lifestyles. Where I grew up, especially the high school I went to, it’s completely different; it’s like a 180. But I don’t want to live in a bubble my whole life. I like seeing what other people’s life experiences are like.”

10. His car is kind of ridiculous

Giolito drives to Guaranteed Rate Field in the same white 2012 Chevy Tahoe that he bought with his bonus money about two blinks after he was drafted.

“It has three 12-inch subwoofers, a full sound system, windows tinted, [custom] wheels, lowered [the suspension],” he said. “Basically, I did everything to that car that I possibly could when I was an 18-year-old kid with too much money.”

He’s thinking about getting a new ride in the offseason. Maybe something nerd cool?