Giambi still very fond of New York
A's new slugger has great memories of tenure with Yanks
NEW YORK -- Having been booed on occasion as a member of the home team in the Bronx, A's first baseman Jason Giambi isn't quite sure how he'll be received by Yankees fans when he takes the field here as an enemy player for the first time since the 2001 playoffs.
That question remained unanswered Monday when the opener of a scheduled three-game series at new Yankee Stadium was postponed as the result of rain.
But if Giambi was wondering how the Gotham press would greet him, he got an emphatic answer shortly after the postponement was announced: with open arms.
Giambi held a press conference at the gleaming new yard, and there was no shortage of hugs and warm welcomes. Clearly, Giambi's magnetic everyman vibe played well in the City That Never Sleeps.
Giambi, 38, took questions -- mostly of the softball variety -- for about 10 minutes while wearing an A's cap and sweatshirt. Surely the more striking aspect of the look to most of the local media was the grayish Grizzly Adams starter-set of a beard that most certainly would not have played well within the buttoned-down walls of Yankeedom.
"I gave my heart and soul when I played here," Giambi said.
After starting his career and blossoming into a superstar over seven seasons in Oakland, Giambi traded green-and-gold for pinstripes and a different kind of green after the A's fell to the Yankees in five games in the 2001 American League Division Series.
A free agent, he signed a $120 million contract and spent the subsequent seven seasons in New York. It was a tumultuous tenure that included a monster debut in 2002, followed by controversy and injuries, a Comeback Player of the Year award in 2005 and, in his last year with the team, talk of a magic gold thong and furry facial hair.
"They had a Mustache Day [for me] here," Giambi said, recalling the 2008 promotion tied to the burly caterpillar-like 'stache he grew to break out of a slump and maintained while the hits kept coming. "I still can't believe that."
Giambi briefly reflected on his time as a Yankee, but first he was asked for his impressions of the new digs. It's a $1.5 billion behemoth that sits across the street from the still-standing old yard.
"It's gorgeous. Gigantic," Giambi said. "It's like when people first walked into the Titanic; it's enormous."
The Titanic reference drew a big laugh from the roughly 50 people in attendance, and he further endeared himself to the locals by saying he misses the traditional "Roll Call" that starts in the top of the first inning of every home game and continues until every player on the field somehow acknowledges the fans chanting their names from the bleachers in right field.
"That's the best thing in baseball," Giambi said with a smile.
He also said he still keeps a home in Manhattan because he "loves the atmosphere, the action." But Giambi turned serious when talking specifically about his time with the Yankees, expressing disappointment that he didn't help the team win a World Series but insisting he didn't have a single regret.
"There's no place on the planet like this," he explained. "I had a lot of ups and downs here, but I grew as a person ...
"As a human being."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.