Everything about this year is different, even on the baseball field. But there are moments when it all can still seem normal, when the game looks the way it has for 100 years.
Chadwick Tromp provided one of those flashes in Friday night’s 9-2 win over the Rangers when he smoked a 2-2 fastball the other way and through a shift in the fifth inning. Tromp couldn’t hide his smile as he rounded first, and he briefly held his hand up to signal, asking politely that the baseball be thrown into the Giants dugout.
The 25-year-old didn’t know it, but that was well taken care of.
“Everybody was making that motion,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Everybody wanted to make sure that we got that ball for him. I don’t think we would have missed that, but I think it’s telling that everybody had that on their minds.”
The players are not allowed to spend as much time in close quarters as in the past, but they still have spent enough time with Tromp over two camps to know his story. He hails from Aruba, and currently is one of just two players — along with Boston’s Xander Bogaerts — in the big leagues from the tiny Caribbean island that has the population of a small California suburb. Tromp had been in the minors with the Reds since 2013 and missed most of the 2019 season as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
The Giants liked what they saw from 26 games in Triple-A and added him as organizational depth. A hot summer camp, plus Buster Posey’s opt-out, put Tromp on the roster this week once a tight hamstring healed.
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Tromp made his first start Wednesday and struck out three times. Kapler met with him before that game and asked if he was nervous. Tromp played it off, but then turned the question around on his manager.
“I was like, yeah, man, I was nervous before every game I played in the major leagues, I’ve been nervous any time I did anything on camera, I’m nervous before coaching things — that’s part of it,” Kapler said, laughing. “That adrenaline, that heartbeat, it’s kind of what heightens focus. I think it’s really important that we use the nerves to elevate our game.
“Part of those nerves calmed down tonight. He settled in nicely, called a great game obviously, got some big strikes at the bottom of the zone and had some good at-bats. It was a good all-around performance and the kind of performance we were seeing in our modified camp that led us to believe that he’s going to be contributing to our major league roster this year.”
The first big league hit for Chadwick Tromp: pic.twitter.com/dIqEqo6AVr
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) August 1, 2020
Tromp followed his single with an RBI double. He guided five relievers through 5 1/3 shutout innings, including Conner Menez, who got a huge pop-up with the bases loaded in the fifth. When it was over, Tromp took part in his first modified handshake line with teammates who were hoping a night like tonight would come.
“There’s something about him that you want to root for the guy,” said Wilmer Flores, who had the go-ahead homer.
Perhaps it’s because Tromp spent seven years in the minors, often as a backup. Or perhaps it’s just a personality thing. As Tromp sat down in the Zoom room for a postgame interview, he looked up at the camera.
“I’m Chadwick,” he said to nobody in particular. “Nice to meet you.”
Tromp went on to say he never lost faith that this day would come. He said his mindset has always been that he’s a big leaguer who just wasn’t in the big leagues yet.
“For me, it was never a doubt,” he said. “It was just a matter of when.”
That moment came during a week when the sport was possibly imploding. Six teams had games postponed Friday night, and the commissioner has warned players that they need to be more serious about following safety precautions. The Giants have not had a positive coronavirus test in nearly a month, but they increased their awareness this week. Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt were shown sitting among cutouts in the stands during Friday’s game.
Nobody knows how long this season will last, but while they’re on the field, the players and coaches are doing their best to enjoy it. That pales in comparison to the scene in Aruba, though.
“The community back home, they’re going nuts, I’m going to be honest with you,” Tromp said. “It’s crazy, people are celebrating, the whole island is basically celebrating. I love it. We’re such a small island and this is very important to them because it puts us on a bigger scale and shows the world that a small island can also do big things in life.”
Tromp is from Oranjestad, a name that — appropriately for a Giants catcher — means “Orange Town.” It’s the capital and largest city in Aruba, and eventually that first hit ball, which was thrown immediately into the dugout, will end up there.
“It’s going to go home,” Tromp said. “It’s going to be in my house, and it’s going to be in a glass box, and it’s going to stay there for as long as possible.”
Tromp paused for five seconds and then leaned into the microphone and smiled.
“It’s probably going to be in the middle of my house, to be honest,” he said.