When he was a Louisiana eighth-grader, Johnny Giavotella was a running back. As he entered high school, he focused on defense, and when he reached college he eschewed football altogether.
But he has always retained one trick he learned on the gridiron.
"Whenever I was close to the end zone and I knew someone was coming," Giavotella said, "I would just dive in there."
Today, the dive is unmistakable. When pressed for time on the basepaths, he invariably leaps onto his belly several feet from the bag and rides it out from there. Like he had scored a touchdown, he returns to his feet visibly excited, and his teammates hoot and holler.
The first unveiling of it in 2016, Tuesday night against Kansas City, marked the best game of Giavotella's season to date. He had three hits, including a three-run home run, and he said it proved to the Royals — "as well as myself" — that he can play in the major leagues.
Giavotella spent the first seven seasons of his professional career with the Royals and never stuck in the majors despite eight stints there.
"I didn't perform as well as I could've when I was in Kansas City," he said. "I know that I underperformed with the opportunity that I had."
Ned Yost was the Royals' manager for all of Giavotella's stints. He said the 28-year-old second baseman, batting .188, has recently improved on defense.
"He's always played with a lot of energy," Yost said this week. "He's making strides. You can tell he's been working really, really hard on his defense. You can tell he's an all-around player."