Lucas Giolito’s parents experienced his no-hitter in very different ways
It was about 10:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday when the television finally came to life in the upstate New York home of Rick Giolito and his wife, Lindsay Frost.
The couple’s 26-year-old son, Chicago White Sox ace Lucas Giolito, was three outs away from throwing a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field, and Lindsay could no longer stand the suspense.
Neither she nor Rick had watched an inning of the game, but friends and relatives began calling and text-messaging with updates around the sixth inning. They resisted the urge to turn on the TV, not wanting to jinx the no-hitter.
But for Lindsay, a 58-year-old actress and artist, the desire to see if her son, the former Harvard-Westlake High star, could complete the historic feat won out over the need to follow one of baseball’s oldest unwritten rules.
“In the ninth inning, my wife said, ‘I can’t not watch,’ and she decided to turn the game on,” said Rick Giolito, 62. “I said, ‘OK, that’s it, I’m leaving.’ We live on a half-mile-long gravel road on a lake in the middle of the woods. I just grabbed my flashlight, poured myself a glass of Bourbon and took off.”
Giolito, a former actor and retired video-game producer, strolled about a quarter-mile down his driveway in Sand Lake, N.Y., which is nestled in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, 15 miles east of Albany, before turning around. Just as he got back, his brother-in-law, Scott Frost, greeted him with the news.
Chicago White Sox pitcher and Harvard-Westlake School product Lucas Giolito threw a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.
“He said he threw a no-hitter and I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” Giolito said. “Then I went into the house, and my phone started blowing up with texts and emails. I finally sat down to watch [a replay of] the game at about 1:30 a.m. and got to bed around 4 a.m.”
Which is just how the elder Giolito prefers to watch his son, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound right-hander who was a first-round pick of the Washington Nationals out of high school in 2012 and one of the worst pitchers in baseball in 2018.
Lucas Giolito was projected as a No. 1 pick before injuring his elbow in his second game in 2012, robbing him of his senior season and the chance to join Max Fried and Jack Flaherty, both eventual first-round picks and big leaguers, in what probably would have been the best prep rotation in the nation.
The Nationals selected Giolito with the 12th overall pick, but Giolito blew out his elbow in his first minor league start in 2012 and had Tommy John surgery as an 18-year-old. It took four years to reach the big leagues, Giolito going 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in six games for the Nationals in 2016.
After Lucas was traded from Washington to the White Sox for outfielder Adam Eaton that winter, Rick decided it was best for his mental health to not watch Lucas on television. The only times he watches his son pitch live is when he attends games in person.
“Being a pitcher’s dad, it’s nerve-wracking — I get too upset at the umpires,” Rick Giolito said. “He was such a phenom coming out of high school, with all these heavy expectations, and it took a toll on him. He struggled in 2018, and that wasn’t fun to watch. So to relieve the stress on myself, I wait until the games are over, find out what happened, and then decide whether to watch.”
There were times in 2018 when Rick couldn’t bear to watch. Giolito went 10-13 with a 6.13 ERA in 32 starts for the White Sox in his first full big league season, striking out 125 and walking an American League-high 90 in 173 1/3 innings.
“There were days when I’d be talking to him, telling him, ‘You’re gonna be fine, don’t worry, keep working,’ ” Rick Giolito said. “He was a little lost.”
The following winter, Giolito revamped his workout regimen, focusing more on core strength, and his delivery, shortening his arm stroke and slightly altering his arm slot and release point.
“Changing the way you’ve thrown since you were in the crib is one of the most difficult things to do in baseball,” said Matt LaCour, the Harvard-Westlake athletic director who was Giolito’s high school coach.
“It takes so much time, effort, concentration, attention to detail, and it takes a long time for that to become natural. He’s huge, with long levers, so making his delivery a little more compact allows him to repeat it.”
Giolito went from a potential bust to an All-Star in 2019, going 14-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 29 starts, striking out 228 and walking 57 in 176 2/3 innings. He finished sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting.
“I was at the bottom of the league in almost every statistic,” Giolito said after his no-hitter. “I kind of had to get my ass kicked over and over again, to learn from failure and make the changes I needed to make to realize my true potential.”
That potential was on full display Tuesday night, when Giolito matched his career high with 13 strikeouts and walked one while throwing the 19th no-hitter in White Sox history and first since Philip Humber’s perfect game in 2012.
Former Wolverines have established themselves as top starting pitchers in MLB.
The most harrowing moment for Giolito — and those watching at home — came on his 101st and final pitch, a low fastball that Erik Gonzalez sliced on a line to right fielder Adam Engel, who was perfectly positioned to catch the final out.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” said LaCour, who began watching the game on his computer at school and caught the last few innings at home. “With each pitch call, I was critiquing, telling my wife, ‘OK, here’s the changeup, he’s gonna throw the slider again, I can’t believe they’re going to throw another slider!’
“I let out a pretty big yell when the ball came out of his hand on the last pitch, because it obviously didn’t go where they wanted it to. He tried to go up in the zone with the fastball for a strikeout, and he left it down. The guy got his barrel on it. Luckily, they had a guy in right field right where he needed to be.”
Across the country, in the wee hours of the morning, Giolito’s father experienced the same sensation, even though he knew how the game ended.
“The point of a pitcher’s dad watching a game and knowing the outcome is that there is no suspense,” said Rick Giolito, who moved from Los Angeles to New York with his wife in 2017. “I can survive. My head would have exploded if I was watching it in real time. A bad call, an error, God knows what …
“It’s just better for me to know the outcome. It was still thrilling watching it. I was still getting goose bumps even though I knew it was gonna work out. It’s the way I stay sane.”
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