01 April 2008

Young is Old

Aided by a one hour rain delay prior to the Diamondbacks dispatch of the Reds, the FSNAZ pregame crew lavished attention on the 10th anniversary of the franchise inaugural game. That would be the Diamondbacks franchise, of course. Cincinnati's inaugural game was 139 years ago. Thom Brennaman and Jay Bell sat down for extensive interviews, and Bob Brenly, Thom's color man at the time, reminisced along with Greg Shulte and Ken Phelps. FSN aired video from that night a decade past - Colangelo with the 6 yr old Volpe twins throwing out the first balls, acrobats rappelling from the rafters, parachutists, Willie Mays, the first pitch from Andy Benes. It doesnt seem like ten years.

It gives hope that, a week from now, the powers that be will do up the nostalgic home opener right. That maybe they finally get it. The idea that this town has birthed one baseball franchise, not two. It's 90% attitude really, and one gets the feeling, from less hostile rhetoric and recent conciliatory action (ie inviting Colangelo to throw out the first pitch of the NLDS), that the current cabal realizes they paid a stiff price for inititally implementing their vision with a dose of disdain.

Monday's reunion should be fun and I look forward to what Derrick Hall has up his sleeve and on his scoreboard, but it should be noted the valley may not express a huge connection with the individual players from 1998. This is not the World Series squad. These guys, god bless'em, lost 97 games. No Johnson or Schilling. No Gonzo or Fins. No Tony Womack, Mark Grace or Craig Counsell. Will the stadium rise as one to greet the likes of Andy Benes and Devon White? Expect Matt Williams to hear some boos. David Delucci and Andy Fox should get a warm reception, as will Jay Bell. I will hoot loudest for Brian Anderson and Omar Daal, two favorites who carved out respectable major league seasons with very little on the ball.

Back at FSN, an interview w/ Dbacks' Director of Player Personnel, Jerry Dipoto, was interesting, despite the fact it was conducted by Mark McLune, whose only on air contribution appears to be uneasy terror masquerading as youthful excitement. Remarkably, DiPoto was at BOB in 98 (as a visiting Rockie), was present at the 95 Coors inaugural, and has battled Doug Davis' current nemesis, thyroid cancer. Wow. How topical can one guest get?

The embarrassing McClune later tried to sell a hopelessly staged segment with girly barflies in Sedona Red T-Shirts as somehow authentic, but after his blonde ringer gushed she was jazzed that 150 games were being televised on FSNAZ, the jig was up. Cut to Brad Steinke, who appropriately humiliated McClune, sarcastically calling the plants "pretty convincing actresses".

Mark Grace and Ken Phelps both picked Colorado to win the division, which was kinda fun. By now, one expects Phelps to step all over the company line - real or imagined - but it was refreshing to hear Grace not toe it for a change.

As we touched on in yesterday's postgame observations, the game resembled a typical Diamondbacks victory from 2007 in many respects. We wont rehash those here and instead close with a couple subtler observations. First, I was struck by Chris Young's demeanor upon crushing a fastball into the second deck off Harang. Young's never been a showman, particularly, but he immediately trotted out the expressionless, head down home run trot that I didnt see from him last year. It's a kind of self-conscious, rehearsed act I dig, not for the sanctimonious Matt Williams-esque display itself (ie "not showing up the pitcher"), as much as it presupposes that Young expects to hit homers.

Second, is it just me or did this team seem "older", steadier out there? Granted, it was Webb, and there was a midgame shift of momentum towards the Reds, but it just didnt seem as close as 4-2. The way Valentin made the game's only baserunning blunder. The way Hudson and Reynolds made a difference defensively. The way Lyon (and Qualls and Pena preceding) shut it down 1,2,3. In a postgame interview, Chris Young's face looked fuller than last year. His skin didnt look so shiny. Maybe a little stubble. He looked older.

So far, it's a good look.

(1998 photo courtesy of Rob Schumacher / The Arizona Republic)


Tracy said...

I did notice the way Young broke into his home run trot and thought it was pretty cool, too. :-)

I wonder who will throw out the first pitch? I think it would be neat if they let Andy Benes do it. Were you there that night? I remember that was a fun night full of anticipation. Willie Mays walked right by us and we shook his hand. It was awesome.

Matt said...

First, thx for your comment here and also the link over at your place :-)

Benes is a good choice. Another idea might be Larry Rodriguez, the Dbacks very first draft pick (along with Vladimir Nunez), way back in the mid nineties - the original Diamondback as it were. Rodriguez never pitched an inning in the big leagues,which with some background from the PA man, could make for a poignant moment. He's a nobody, but represents something important, I think, about the hope inherent in baseball, and reconciling that with real life.

Was I there 3/31/98? As Daron might say, "You BET I was there!" It's hard to describe the childlike giddiness associated with not just a new ballpark, but a new franchise, in a city that never had one. You were there. It's magical.

You shook his hand? Say Hey to that.