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Behind the Giants’ rookie talent show, where a few minor leaguers won good money


Chadwick Tromp and Jamie Westbrook. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports (2)


Minor leaguers will be paid through April 8, at which point the great unknown the country is facing becomes more dire for baseball’s most vulnerable players. MLB said it will work on a plan for what happens April 9, but in a world shut down by the coronavirus, little is guaranteed.

Which makes a bit of money earned while entertaining teammates all the more helpful.

Catcher Chadwick Tromp and outfielder Jamie Westbrook were co-winners of the Giants’ rookie talent show, splitting about $14,000 just days before the Giants’ camp let out early because of the pandemic. In simpler times, the judges — a panel of 10 veteran Giants — were faced with deciding which was more important: the talent or the performance?

Because there were co-winners, no conclusion was reached.

“Guys are worried about whether it’s a talent show or entertainment show,” said Jeff Samardzija, who was not a judge because he was in charge of collecting payments. “[Westbrook’s] was more of an entertainment show, but I didn’t put any rules on it. It was a free-for-all.”

And treated as such.

In early March, at a time when the biggest Giants wonders involved whether Pablo Sandoval could make the 26-man roster and who the closer would be, the Giants held a fairly wild talent show that was whittled down after a preliminary round. Into the finals came pitcher Raffi Vizcaino, who rapped and danced, and two front-runners who divided voters.

Westbrook’s was the most controversial entry, the former Diamondbacks prospect assembling a tight outfit and bringing in outside dancers to accompany him on stage in the Scottsdale facility. The Arizona native plays guitar and had one at his disposal, but it was more prop than instrument as he strutted around with the dancers.

“He tried to make his performance good, not necessarily showcase his talent,” was Sam Coonrod’s analysis. “Tromp was talent. If it’s a talent show, you go with Tromp. Performance? Maybe Westbrook.”

“I was staying impartial to the matter,” said Samardzija, the money-keeper. “And it’s a good thing because I can be swayed by good-looking women, so I probably would’ve voted for Westbrook.”

Tromp, a 25-year-old from Aruba who came up with the Reds, did not call upon dancers but a DJ cousin back home, who made a mix featuring all kinds of music, both in English and Dutch. (“But that didn’t go well. I kind of forgot some words in Dutch,” Tromp said.)

The performance tilted into an impersonation, Tromp channeling Ron “Show-tus” and running through the third-base coach’s signs. He did a stretch before some dancing — shuffling and Gangnam Style — were worked into the performance.

After that, the six-instrument-literate Tromp, all from the percussion family — drums, bongos, conga, cowbell, güira, tambora — jumped on some bongos and began playing a salsa song, which he then added some flavor with cowbell.

“Then I hopped back on the drums and played a song from back home that’s called ‘Sharks Coming,'” said Tromp, who also wore some oversized glasses for the six-minute routine that culminated with some Luke Bryan. “I played a country song at the end to finish — ‘Country Girl, (Shake It For Me).'”

He earned the vote of judge Tony Watson, who said, “He’s a showman, and he’s got a real talent for music.”

In a camp filled with competition, it was a fun dose of more head-to-head battle. And before camp was broken up by matters far larger than talent shows and baseball, it was a reason to laugh. And a reason to give a couple minor leaguers a bit more financial stability, the winnings meaning “a lot” to Tromp, who was putting it in the bank.

Samardzija enjoyed it and longed for a simpler spring training time.

“It was fun. Camp nowadays … there are all these camps that aren’t fun,” said Samardzija, entering his 13th season. “It used to be everyone come here and have fun and get ready for the season.”

 

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