By David Willis
---- — The back of his Andover High warmup jersey still has the name Spellacy stitched into it, many of his friends still call him “Spell,” and his coach continues to accidentally write the name Spellacy on lineup cards.
But the Golden Warrior catcher knew that, in his heart, his name was Nathaniel Giammasi.
“It was a family decision and I talked to my mother and grandparents a lot,” Giammasi said. “But in the end, the final decision was my own. I felt like it was right.”
In the summer before his senior year, after considerable soul searching, then-Nathaniel Spellacy made the decision to change his last name to Giammasi, the maiden name of his mother, Andover High graduate Diane Giammasi.
“My father has not been a part of my life for a long time,” he said. “I don’t really want to comment on the circumstances, but it has pretty much been the case my whole life.
“I started thinking about changing my name over the summer. I told my mom and she was totally with me. But she left the decision up to me. My mom is the best. She has always been there for me and supported me.”
While the decision required considerable thought and exploration by Giammasi and his family, he said since making the change, the transition has been fairly simple.
“Coach (Dan) Grams gets confused sometimes,” he said. “They still call me Spell, since we already have a Gio (Mike Giannone), so I’m not going to be Gio 2. My mom has been supportive, and so has the team.”
It is sports, he said, that have been a key to Giammasi dealing with the challenges of his youth.
“Playing sports was great for me,” he said. “It was very rewarding to have teammates and coaches in my life. They helped me through the good times and the bad times.
“I take a lot from my coaches. They are men that I can look up to and aspire to be like.”
His current baseball coach certainly admires the man Giammasi has grown into.
“He’s a mature and hard-working young man,” Grams said. “He is also a great teacher for the younger kids. He’s a tremendous leader and a very good kid.
“When I fill out my line-up card, I always write Spellacy and have to scribble it out. But I don’t think he minds.”
On the field
Heading into this spring, his third year as a starter, Giammasi stepped up in a big way for his teammates by volunteering to take on the major challenge of moving from third base to catcher for the first time since middle school.
“I caught a lot as a kid, but I hadn’t been a catcher since the eighth grade,” Giammasi said. “But we needed some leadership at catcher, and so I talked to the captains (Cam Farnham and Andrew Deloury) and we decided to give it a try.”
Grams knew calling on an inexperienced catcher was not without risk.
“It was a gamble,” said the coach. “But we knew the catching position has been a little thin, and Spell came in one day and said, ‘Coach, I want to catch again.’ He worked very hard to reeducate himself and he has been a fixture ever since.”
But moving from third base, where he started last year, to catcher wasn’t easy for Giammasi, who has been behind the plate for all but one game this season.
“It has taken a lot of working with the pitchers because I haven’t even caught a bullpen session in a long time. I really had to get used to catching a curveball. A couple games ago, I got one right in the arm.
“But as I have worked, I have gotten back into it, and it’s good that the pitchers can trust me that I can block a ball in the dirt.”
Giammasi has also contributed plenty with the bat. He is hitting .333 with four RBIs this season out of the No. 2 spot, including a three-RBI day in a win over Methuen. That after hitting .302 with 12 runs scored a season ago and winning the second base job during his sophomore season, highlighted by a two-hit, two-run day in a win over Methuen.
“I like to make contact and move the runners along,” he said. “Hitting behind Cam is tough because he is so good and is always on base, and then I have to live up to Deloury, who gets so many big hits. But you have to be confident and have to believe you will come through.”
Even if the name change occasionally confuses him, Grams couldn’t imagine his team without Giammasi.
“The best way to describe him is he is another coach on the field for us,” Grams said. “He knows the game inside and out, he is a fast learner and a great teacher.”