The New York Times’ Tyler Kepner compares and contrasts the public image of Jason Giambi from last year to this.

Last Feb. 10 at Yankee Stadium, Giambi (above, right) squeezed into a chair between his agent, Arn Tellem, and Manager Joe Torre and smiled nervously. Dressed in a suit, Giambi carefully apologized for becoming a distraction to the Yankees.

Without admitting he had used steroids, Giambi took his first tentative steps in public after a newspaper reported details of his secret testimony before the grand jury in the Balco steroids case. It was a painfully awkward beginning.

In time, Giambi became a redemptive story, with a barrage of second-half home runs that restored his status as a star. Yesterday’s appearance at the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai in Manhattan showed how far Giambi has come.

This time, he sat between Garth Brooks, the country music singer, and Diane Rode, the director of child life programs for the hospital. He was dressed casually, smiled easily and was treated like a hero.

With Brooks and the Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, Giambi is a major donor for a new wing, the Zone, an oasis of computers, video games, dollhouses and interactive activities for sick children. Brooks called Giambi’s family a role model and said he was blessed to know it.

“Every New Yorker, they love to see somebody face adversity and still stand tall and not fall by the wayside,” Giambi said later. “They like to see you man up and take your beating, but you just keep going and ticking and keep working hard. They love those stories. It’s a tough town out here, it really is.”

No need to elaborate on what “face adversity” means, of course.