Sneak peek at this months The MAN (by Robert Adler) article (ok its actually the whole article. But it’s timely and probably won’t be by the time the newsletter gets delivered to your door, so read it here first!) Enjoy.
If you’ve only seen Chase Field on television you may not understand the ballpark’s massiveness. It’s been described as having the characteristics of a warehouse or an airplane hangar. It may not be the most elegant ballpark or the most historic, but to the Arizona Diamondbacks and their fans it is home. And has been for fourteen years.
High in the outfield, a straight shot ahead of home plate, hangs an enormous digital scoreboard that packs in more statistics than a Headline News broadcast. To either side of the giant screen hang signs that tell the story of the team’s successes since their 1998 inaugural season. Looking to the right, from any seat in the stands, hangs a lone, proud, giant A commemorating the team’s 2001 World Series Championship. To the left hang more As marking their National League Championship from the same year as well as NL West Division Championships from ‘99, ‘01, ‘02, ‘07. A new banner marks this year’s achievement, awaiting completion of its own A, sure to be unveiled on opening day 2012.
The Diamondbacks, or at least their fan base, did not enter the 2011 season expecting to see a new banner raised on the right side of the scoreboard. While we all dream, few would have predicted the team would even contend for a wild card position in the playoffs this year. Yet there we were, 45,000 strong, packed in to Chase Field to watch the Diamondbacks grasp for a win in the third game of the National League division series.
As they did so many times this season, the Diamondbacks find themselves in a position where they must come from behind to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Down 2-0 in a best of 5 series, it’s a simple case of win or go home for the Dbacks now. Anyone who watched Ryan Roberts hit a walk-off grand slam to win a game where the Dbacks trailed by six runs with one out remaining knows better than to count them out yet.
I listened to former baseball manager Bobby Valentine on the radio yesterday. He was asked what you say to a team facing elimination. “Do you need to tell them this could be the last game?” the interviewer asked. To which Valentine responded, that no, you really just need to tell everyone to be prepared.
I tried to imagine Kirk Gibson’s speech to his young team, most of whom have never experienced a post-season. Gibby, as he’s known around town, has made overachievers out of a team that, many national reporters will remind you, is made up of players few people outside of Arizona can name.
I imagine he told them, in the same soft, firm delivery that he approaches his post-game press conferences with, that they’ve done so much and come so far and can still continue to overachieve. They’ve beaten opponents of all calibers this season, knocked off the World Champion Giants in their own division, and dug themselves out of seemingly impossible holes. And he probably told them to relax, and have fun. If you saw rookie pitcher Josh Collmenter hold the Brewers to one run over seven innings, or rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt hammer a grand slam over the right field wall last night, as they went on to win 8-1, that team was having fun.
When the Diamondbacks season’s last out is made, (and by the time you read this article that very well could have taken place) the fans in Arizona will be nothing but proud of their team. And hopeful for next year, something they haven’t had good reason to be in a long time.