For volleyball player Jenna Giambi, the family connection at Long Beach State runs deep.
More than 20 years ago, her uncle Jason Giambi played for CSULB’s baseball team before being drafted 58th overall by the Oakland Athletics in the 1992 MLB draft.
The Giambi’s are a baseball and softball family, featuring Jenna’s uncles, Jason and Jeremy Giambi, who both played professionally. Meanwhile, Jenna’s mother, Julie Giambi, was a softball player at Cal State Fullerton.
Although Jenna grew up playing softball, she had other aspirations, including soccer and acting. But at the age of 15, she had to choose one passion to dedicate her time to.
That’s when she chose to pursue volleyball.
“It was a lot of pressure in my family, and I definitely love softball, but I wanted to venture out,” Jenna said. “When I was seven, my best friend played volleyball at this club, and she told me to come try it out. And then as soon as I started playing, I fell in love with it.”
Growing up around her baseball family, Jenna said she remembers how much her uncle Jason praised CSULB. Even at a young age, Jenna knew she wanted to attend CSULB and leave her own legacy at the university.
“I mean, it’s really cool, walking in the pyramid, the UK lounge and seeing his face all over it,” Jenna said. “And so, I mean, I want to leave my own legacy, like a part of his.”
Jenna is in her first year of playing volleyball at CSULB. She is majoring in communication studies with dreams of working in sports broadcasting in the future.
She expressed that being a good student and achieving her academic goals is what she has her sights on outside of volleyball.
“I mean I just want to keep getting good grades and you know, like obviously, if I could, become an All-American,” Jenna said. “Just kind of looking forward to what I can do here at Long Beach and see if I can make an impact on everyone behind me.”
Jenna’s coach, Joy Mckienzie-Fuerbringer, describes her as one of the best teammates you can have on the court.
“She’s got just a great, easy-going personality,” Mckienzie-Fuerbringer, said. “She likes to make people around her laugh and feel comfortable.”
Mckienzie-Fuerbringer said she believes Jenna brings a great aura to the team and is consistent with her energy, play and communication.
While Jenna’s mother Julie Giambi is a former alumna of cross-town rival CSUF, she said she was ecstatic for her daughter when she got the offer to play at CSULB.
“[Jenna’s] like, I’m going to go to Long Beach State because that’s where I want to go,” Julie said. “I don’t think she wanted to kind of follow in my footsteps.”
For Julie, as a parent, her main goal is to watch her daughter go far with her education and see how far she can excel in volleyball. She said she wants her daughter to keep getting better every day to accomplish her childhood dream of becoming an Olympic athlete.
“I get so excited to go watch her on the court because she’s unbelievable,” Julie said. “I want to see her grow, and I want to see her develop.”
Jenna’s uncle, Jason, said he wasn’t surprised to see her choose CSULB. Since being drafted, Jason would return to campus for alumni events, bringing a young Jenna with him. And she would just be mesmerized by the campus, he said.
Jason said that he knew Jenna wanted to play volleyball the moment he saw her fall in love with it so easily.
“She’s definitely a Giambi, she’s a grinder,” Jason Giambi said. “She likes to play hard and you know, ‘I’m going to do the little things.'”
A former New York Yankee, Jason said that CSULB holds the same alumni spirit as the decorated ball club, which is why he believes the volleyball program will always be a special part of Jenna’s life.
“When you’re a Yankee, you’ll always be a Yankee. No matter whoever you play for Yankee fans see you as a Yankee,” Jason said. “I think when you start to play in those sports, volleyball, baseball, the sports the school’s really known for and you know, there’s an amazing alumni that go along with it that you’re part of this group you’re part of this family now which is which is really cool.”