The flights are less of a hassle and part of the appeal now. How many infants can see the country like Cru DeSclafani can?
When he boards an airplane for Southern California this weekend for a series with the Angels, it will be Anthony and Lauren’s son’s 16th flight (they believe) before he has turned 10 months old. Another passenger who happened to share a few flights with Cru approached Mom recently to compliment such a well-behaved kid who hasn’t been screaming while in the air.
Anthony, Lauren and Cru can go wherever the Giants go, can eat out and find some peanut butter or avocado or eggs for a kid who seems to eat everything because he certainly is Anthony’s son.
They could not do that 15 months ago, when they were forced to go on a four-day car trip from Arizona to New Jersey. They could not spend quality time together last season, when the couple made the difficult decision to say goodbye to each other during Lauren’s last months of pregnancy so he could play baseball, try to help the Reds and try to provide for his family. They can be together, now part of a first-place Giants club, with Anthony pitching like the next Kevin Gausman, and look back at a time that he calls “miserable”; that she can still hardly comprehend, even if she lived it.
“Last year was so hard,” Lauren DeSclafani said on a phone call Saturday, one day before she and Cru would celebrate Anthony’s first Father’s Day. “We kind of look back and we can’t even believe that that actually happened.”
It all did, and the memories would be a lot more painful if it weren’t for Cru, the brightest spot of a dark year for them.
As the pandemic took hold in March 2020, a plane wasn’t an option. Lauren was about 16 weeks pregnant with their first child, and they did not want to risk exposure after spring training 1.0 was shut down. The DeSclafanis packed up their things and drove about 2,300 miles back home, with both Anthony and Lauren New Jersey natives.
“We were scared,” Lauren said. “We were scared for ourselves, scared for our baby.”
Their struggles mirrored so many others’, difficulties getting food and supplies at cleaned-out grocery stores. Anthony kept busy by putting together a nursery and installing appliances that the righty pitcher would not have time for soon.
Last year was Anthony’s last on his contract with the Reds, finally about to enter a free agency that could lavish the family with life-changing money. If he stayed home to care for his pregnant wife, who knows how teams would evaluate him? But if he played, he would be entering MLB’s vague version of a bubble and go months without seeing her.
They talked, and Anthony acknowledged the thought of opting out entered his mind. But when spring training 2.0 opened in July, he was going to Cincinnati. Nearly eight months pregnant, she was staying close to family and her doctor in New Jersey.
“It was unimaginably difficult,” Lauren said.
“Yeah, it was miserable,” Anthony said.
There were daily FaceTimes, and there were a lot of worries and pressures. It is hard to conceive of a contract season going worse.
One day into the campaign he was placed on the injured list with a strained back muscle. He didn’t debut until Aug. 2, and he allowed nine runs in two innings in his third start. He appeared in just nine games, and two were implosions his ERA (7.22) would not recover from.
He does not want to point to everything that was going on inside his mind as the root of the struggles, knowing some could just shrug that off as an excuse, but being a virtual husband in a wife’s last months before delivery took a toll.
“I tried to take on the challenge but just didn’t do well and succeed,” Anthony said. “That’s OK because he was born.”
Aug. 25, Cru James entered the world, and Anthony was able to make it in time for the delivery — thankfully, a wavering New Jersey allowed husbands in the room during the pandemic. And then Anthony returned to his ballclub and got knocked around (seven runs in 3 2/3 innings) in his first start back.
His year became everything he ever dreamed because he welcomed Cru into his life; his season was a mess. They were back to FaceTiming a few times a day so Anthony could be Dad from afar.
His poor campaign turned into a bargain deal for the Giants, who signed him for one season and $6 million. No pitcher has more shutouts than the 31-year-old (two); his 3.01 ERA is the 23rd best in baseball among qualified pitchers; he has started 14 games, and the Giants have won 10.
As much recognition as Brian Bannister, Andrew Bailey and the Giants’ pitching infrastructure deserves — he is throwing his slider and changeup a bit more and the stuff is playing up — a good deal of the credit can go to an uncluttered head.
“I think everyone’s mind is a little bit more at ease this year, whether you’re talking about Anthony or whether you’re talking about another player,” Lauren said. “The normalcy of this season, the normalcy of our family, things kind of falling into place again and feeling normal. Just being able to settle into San Francisco as a family.
“Whether he has an amazing game or a rough game, to come home — me and Cru are here. Versus last year where he’s worried about me, worried about us, is he going to make it home on time?”
When he gets home, it’s a different Anthony. Fans might be shocked to learn that the fiery, competitive, unsmiling snarl on the mound lights up when Cru is around. Cru, who is crawling around and wreaking havoc unique to 9-month-olds, lights up, too.
Lauren has an up-close look at both Anthonys and wishes the fans could see the other side.
“Anthony always looks so serious and rarely cracks smiles on the mound,” she said. “But with Cru, there’s always a big smile on his face. He really is the best dad.”