Giambi's impact will be missed by Indians
Veteran brought humble presence, lessons from 20 big league seasons
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Over the past two years, Nick Swisher's locker was positioned in the same corner of the Indians' clubhouse at Progressive Field. That was not by accident. When Giambi signed with the Tribe two seasons ago, Swisher wanted to be as close as possible to the veteran slugger.
"I did that on purpose," Swisher said. "You've got to remember, I came up in the Oakland A's organization. He was a god to me coming up."
Swisher also had his locker at the Spring Training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., positioned near Giambi's stall. On Tuesday, one day after the 44-year-old Giambi announced his retirement from baseball, Swisher sat at a new locker farther down the row in the clubhouse.
Giambi's absence from the room will be noticeable this spring as well as during the season. In two years with the club, the veteran of 20 seasons in the big leagues had an enormous impact on the Indians' young players and veterans. With the news out that Giambi has decided to call it a career, praise was found throughout Cleveland's clubhouse.
"His leadership skills," said pitcher Corey Kluber, "whether it was addressing us as a group or talking to guys individually, it was one of those things where he didn't sit you down like he was trying to teach you stuff, but he probably taught everybody something every day. ... That's probably the biggest thing that I'll take from him -- just his willingness to try to make everybody else better."
The 25-year-old Zach Walters, who was traded to the Indians by the Nationals last July, appreciates the two months he had with Giambi in Cleveland.
"His record, what he's done in the game -- for him to come up and talk to you, it's awesome," Walters said. "He was like a childhood icon for me, and he was so cool about it. The way he talked and put things, he made it sound so simple. He's such a humble person about stuff. It made me want to listen to him more. It made me comfortable to come up to him."
Swisher made a point to call Giambi after the retirement announcement came out on Monday.
"I told him, 'Go home and enjoy being a dad. You've earned it,'" Swisher said. "To have a man that has gone through all that stuff in his life, and to be standing at the end of that proud and strong -- you can learn a lot from a guy like that. ... The game is going to miss him. This locker room even more is going to miss him."
The Indians have made it known that they are open to hiring Giambi for a front-office or coaching role. For now, Cleveland feels honored to have had the veteran on the roster for the past two years.
"We were very fortunate to have been the last stop on Jason's impressive Major League playing career," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He had an enormous impact on our Major League team and organization in his two years with us and his influence will continue to impact the careers of each teammate and person he encountered. We wish him all the best as he begins his post-playing career."