Nicholas Castellanos: Joining Cubs Was Like Breaking Surface After Long Time Underwater

Just as Nicholas Castellanos has been a breath of fresh air for the Cubs, they’ve been the same for him. The outfielder talked openly about the emotional impact of being traded when he joined Derek Holland and host Laurence Holmes at Brickhouse Tavern for the final installment of 670 The Score’s Cubs On Deck Luncheon.

“The best way I could put it is you’re underwater for a long time and you breathe hard for a real, real long time and then you finally break the surface,” Castellanos said of leaving the moribund Tigers for a contender.

Joe Maddon remarked on the score Monday that Castellanos greets him each day with a fist bump and wishes him a happy Opening Day, since that’s what it feels like to be in a playoff chase first the first time in far too long. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though, as being traded from the organization that drafted and developed you out of high school brings a cold realization.

“It sucks when your passion becomes an occupation,” Castellanos admitted.

That was something he’d actually realized well before he was traded, since his name had been featured prominently in rumors dating back to at least last year’s deadline. Castellanos eventually learned that the only way forward was to put all the trade speculation behind him and get back to having fun playing the game.

His passion for the game shows in the hunger with which he plays, something Maddon and Theo Epstein are hoping continues to rub off on his teammates. Whether they agree or not, some of the more tenured Cubs could use a little of that energy we’ve seen from Castellanos.

They could also take a few cues from the simplicity Castellanos displays. While it sometimes seems as though Cubs players are pressing and getting inside their own heads a little too often, the new addition sticks to a four-step approach that stays the same no matter what.

“Big in the box, kick high, swing hard, run fast,” Castellanos said of his recipe for success. “That’s about it.”

Now if the Cubs can just keep their heads above water in the NL Central for a few weeks, we’ll all be able to breathe a little easier. And even though he said discussing his impending free agency would be an “injustice” to his teammates, the Cubs would do well to find a way to keep Castellanos around for a few more years.

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