CHICAGO — Every game before Nick Castellanos takes the field, he tells Joe Maddon “Happy Opening Day.”
He was a Detroit Tiger on what most people consider Opening Day, but don’t try to tell him the season doesn’t start anew each time the Cubs hit the field.
“Prove to me that it’s not,” implores Castellanos.
A simple check of the calendar or a look at the standings should do the trick.
“That’s only if you believe your record.”
“It’s kind of the mentality – If what has happened is a memory and what’s going to happen is a thought, you’re taking yourself out of right now. So in that case, every day is Opening Day.”
Critics may argue with the logic, but that mindset has helped Castellanos kick off his Cubs career on a blistering pace.
Since coming to the North Side, the 27-year-old slugger has swatted eight home runs 30 hits and 12 RBI in 19 games.
Castellanos cites a change of scenery as a major factor.
“I always enjoy playing baseball, especially when I’m with my friends. I have a lot of good guys over there in Detroit that I have great relationships with, but yeah, you could say rejuvenated. Obviously, when you come from a team that’s record is 30 and 70-whatever when I got traded, to being in the middle of it and having a packed house it is awesome.”
“The guys in here obviously have a lot to do with it. From the moment I landed and I got the first hitter’s group text message to all the guys just opening up and making me feel good, makes it that much easier.”
The Wrigley Field faithful’s warm welcome doesn’t hurt either.
“I remember we were getting our butts kicked one of the games at home. We were down by ten. It seemed like nobody left. Where at Comerica Park it could be empty.”
“I mean I just joined the squad, but I think also our record at home reflects not only me, but everyone wearing a Cubs uniform appreciates playing at Wrigley Field.”
Castellanos also apprecaites his new manager. He teared up Monday upon hearing Maddon’s praise for him during an interview on 670 The Score’s Laurence Holmes show.
“I like Joe a lot, man. I think he’s a very self-aware, observant, intelligent individual. I like playing for him. He’s a fun-loving, light-hearted, but also at the same time, professional guy.”
The biggest question about both Maddona and Castellanos is whether or not they will be back next year. Castellanos will be a free agent in the fall, potentially commanding more than the $9.95 million he’s making this year.