Prior to getting traded to the Cubs, Nicholas Castellanos was leading the American League in doubles.
Just a few games into his Chicago tenure, he's shown exactly why — hustling out of the box on balls hit down the right-field line in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday, pushing the envelope and getting himself into scoring position.
"He's reminding us what hunger looks like," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the hustle. "This guy, he's really happy to be here and play in this ballpark and he wants to get to the postseason badly. I love what he's doing. Every day, conversationally, his work — everything about him indicates 'Let's go; I want to play in October.' And I love it."
Castellanos got a brief taste of postseason life with the Tigers in 2014, though he was only a 22-year-old rookie then and hasn't been back since.
"He wants to win," Jason Heyward said. "That stands out to me most. ...He's just a person that comes in and understands you don't have a chance to win every season. We have a chance to win a ring and he wants to make the most of that, so it's appreciated."
When asked about his high-energy level by a Chicago media member over the weekend, he laughed and said he must be a good actor because he certainly doesn't always feel 100 percent.
"Every day is Opening Day — that's the way I go about it," he said. "Just be the best version of yourself every day and even on days when that's hard...fake it."
That "every day is Opening Day" mindset can be a huge help in baseball, especially at this point in the long season for position players. But it also helps in a game predicated on failure, where even the best of the best still make an out nearly 70 percent of the time.
Castellanos said he learned how to deal with failure and slumps from Miguel Cabrera — the Tigers slugger and future Hall of Famer who has been one of the best right-handed hitters of the current generation.
"What I took away from him was how to be a kid playing baseball," Castellanos said. "A kid in backyard Wiffle ball never goes into a slump because he's having too much fun with that at-bat to worry about what's happening. That's me."
Maybe the Cubs need a little bit of that right now.
They already have another fun-loving kid in the everyday lineup in Javy Baez and as the Cubs try to figure out how to put their road struggles behind them and stop playing so tight and more free, maybe it's Castellanos' attitude as well as his bat that could help the team moving forward.
"That's the way it should be," Maddon said. "But are you gonna get everybody to be that way? No. It's just where you came from, how you were raised and the influences that you've had. And he's had good influences.
"The guy's focused during every conversation he has, beyond being focused for every pitch, which I'm seeing so far. He's been very interesting and entertaining already and I love that Miguel had told him that and I'm glad that he's taken to that. Because that's the only way to play this game. Javy plays that way all the time.
"You just gotta go out there and play and let it fly a little bit and you can't worry about mental mistakes. Physical mistakes are gonna happen. So I love that [mindset]."
Add that attitude in with the natural bump that comes when you jump from last place in the standings to a legitimate contender and it's the perfect mix for Castellanos right now. We saw the same thing with Cole Hamels last year when he came over to Chicago after a tough year with the Texas Rangers.
"It's definitely a boost of energy, that's for sure," he said. "We weren't exactly having the best year over there. And as a competitor, you take pride in winning. I don't think I love winning; I hate losing. So when our record was whatever it was, it can become a drag and you really gotta fake it.
"So to come over here where you're in the middle of it and you have fans behind you and you have a clubhouse like this and facilities like this, faking it is very easy."