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VAN DYCK: Giambi feels right at home with Yanks

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TAMPA, Fla.

Jason Giambi strode — no, he didn't stride, he bounced — into the Yankee clubhouse very early Monday morning. It was his first day on the new job, which is to become the latest New York baseball legend. So Giambi bounced in, all bubbly and confident, and it was clear he had dressed for the occasion: Black T-shirt emblazoned with white lettering and skulls, advertising a motorcycle builder in the Bay Area. Black leisure jeans. Silver tennis shoes. An overnight growth of beard ... ... And enough aura to fill any clubhouse, even one which contains Yogi Berra on the inside and the name "Legends Field" on the outside. Giambi met his new workmates; Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Robin Ventura, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, et al., even though he was not scheduled to don the official pinstripes until Tuesday. After meeting with his new friends, he met with his new media. Now, this being the New York crew, it is rarely described as being friendly. "Are you ready for the scrutiny?" one media member asked. "What, you trying to scare me?" Giambi replied with a smile. "Hey, I've read the papers." Of course, he hasn't read them after he's taken three straight 0-for-4's as a Yankee. New Yorkers don¿t take kindly to $120-million ballplayers going hitless. "You (media) guys have a job to do and I have a job," he said. "I like filling in quotes for you. "I'm sure it's going to be different. I had a little bit of scrutiny being (the leader) with the A's, but I know this will be on a different level." But won¿t there be some jealousy if the media hangs around a newcomer's locker all the time? "Hey, if it happens, it happens," he said. "If it's expected, it's expected. It was the same situation in the Bay Area. I had a crowd (of media) at my locker. "I don¿t mind. I'm accountable. "I will never upstage anyone. But you guys are the ones who make the call who you talk to. I'm not going to run around the clubhouse saying, "Come and talk to me.' " It will be interesting to see how the unspoken outgoing leader of the A's will fill into the soft-spoken understated Yankee clubhouse. Maybe the rest of the team will actually welcome a relief pitcher; you know, someone to take the media off their hands. Obviously, Giambi isn't worried about it, because he is here to help out in any way he can, from getting a hit to being a hit. Bottom line? "I feel I can walk into this clubhouse and be who I am," he said. And that's what he did Monday. This is, after all, what he really wanted. He could have stayed in Oakland, out of the national spotlight, and remained the leader of a merry little band of renegades. It could have been a very comfortable existence. Instead, Jason Giambi chose New York where he promises to ride his motorcycle down Broadway. You may not like the idea that he deserted his Oakland teammates, but you have to admire him for taking the chance. It can be much easier to fail than it is to succeed under the relentless spotlight of baseball's harshest fans, most critical media and most insistent owner. But Giambi has taken the chance because he has confidence, an absolute feeling that he will succeed. Why shouldn't he? He hasn't failed yet, although seven more years is an awfully long time. However, this is New York (well, this is Tampa but Yankee fans know everything going on here) and there is the temptation for newcomers to try to do too much, make too big an impression. Manager Joe Torre says he wants Giambi "to just be himself. It's tough to take on more than you need to take on." "I don¿t think I'm that type of guy anyway," Giambi said in a spirited, mostly light-hearted give-and-take with his new (for now) media friends. "Whatever opportunity I get, I try to do the best I can. I'm not going to come in and say, 'I'm going to try to hit 50 (homers) this year.' " He might say anything else. In fact, he says so much he surely can't remember it all. "Garrulous" is one word which captures Giambi. This is a guy who likes to talk and likes the attention that comes his way in restaurants. "It's part of the game," he said. "It's part of what you're looking for (in changing teams). I'm not going to change as a person." Of course, there are some things that need to be straightened out before he can become a real pinstripe prince, like getting his "we's" and "they's" in order. For instance, when asked if the better team won in the playoffs, Giambi replied: "They were better. They ended up beating us." Now he is one of "them," a term which includes George Steinbrenner. Despite George letting loose of all that cash, the two have not actually met. "I'm excited to meet him," Giambi said, "and thank him for the opportunity." We can only wait to see if he feels the same way eight months from now, when he is no longer the new kid. Dave van Dyck can be reached at his e-mail address: dvandyck@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Yankees, Athletics, Mets, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi

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