Cubs

MLB slugger is changing his name

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MLB slugger is changing his name

From Comcast SportsNet
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - His mom calls him Cruz. Teammates call him Bigfoot. Most baseball fans know him as Mike Stanton, precocious slugger for the Miami Marlins, but his first name is actually Giancarlo. "The man of a million names," Stanton said. He likes them all, but with spring training cranking up and Stanton touted as a future home-run champion, he said Wednesday he prefers Giancarlo. For the first time, that's the way he's identified on the Marlins' roster. That's also the name on his paycheck and above his locker. That's what team owner Jeffrey Loria calls him. But Stanton's dad calls him Mike, and many of his relatives call him Mikey. "I respond to many names," he said. "It's all good." The Marlins expect to see his surname in a lot of headlines this year. He has 56 career home runs, and in the past 40 years only Ken Griffey Jr. (60) and Alex Rodriguez (56) have hit at least that many before their 22nd birthday. Stanton turned 22 in November. "This kid has potential that's unbelievable," new manager Ozzie Guillen said. The Marlins' cleanup hitter and right fielder is thickly built at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds - thus the nickname Bigfoot, which dates to his year at Single-A Greensboro. In two major-league seasons he has developed a reputation for mammoth homers, and his batting-practice sessions tend to draw a large audience of teammates and opposing players. Guillen said he's not interested in tape-measure homers. "I told Stanton, I hear you hit balls 700 feet. Don't give me 700 feet. Just give me 40 that barely make the wall,'" Guillen said. Stanton said he doesn't care how far his homers travel. Last season he hit 34 while batting .262 with 87 RBIs. This year he'll play in a new ballpark for a team with a much higher profile - and a new name. So the timing of a name change for Stanton makes sense. His full name is a sonorous mouthful: Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton. He's not Italian, and Giancarlo isn't a family name - his parents just liked it. In school, the California native went by Giancarlo (pronounced JEE'-ahn-cahr-loh) until the fifth grade. "No one could pronounce it right," he said. "Everyone thought it was two words. Gene-carlo, Juan-carlo, Gionne-carlo. You have seven periods in school, so seven times a day: No, that's not the name.'" So he switched to Mike. "It was just easier," he said. "If you can't pronounce that, then there's something wrong with you." Many friends still call him Giancarlo, however. He uses that name for his legal signature, while on baseball paraphernalia he signs "Mike Stanton." But he notes that his scrawl is such that his "M" looks a lot like a "G." And teammates are starting to call him Giancarlo more often. "I told him he needs to have longer hair," catcher John Buck said. "When I think of Giancarlo, I think of someone with long, flowing hair, like Fabio. But if he keeps hitting homers, I'll call him whatever he wants me to call him."

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: