Play-off Expectations

Nothing quite like October baseball to get a fan’s heart to race. The air at Bank One Ballpark is electric with excitement as anticipation grows towards Game 1 of the National League Divisional Play-offs. I can still remember the atmosphere back in 1999 when the Diamondbacks made their first trip to the post season. Everything was so magnified compared to the regular season. It was like Christmas morning and I was a kid again. I fully expected to see Santa Claus descend from the JumboTron and deliver special baseball bats to the players. The Diamondbacks even dressed the stands around the stadium with red, white and blue bunting giving it a look of baseball tinsel. Everything seemed larger than life. From the increased sound system to the screaming of 48,000 fans, the stadium seemed so alive. The grass seemed greener and the hot dogs tasted better. There is nothing that can compare to the sights and sounds of Major League Baseball play-offs.

In 1999, we as fans did not understand nor appreciate what an accomplishment it was to be in the post season. Although we enjoyed it, we were not terribly upset when the New York Mets eliminated the Diamondbacks in Game 4. Instead, we just assumed the Diamondbacks would be back again the next year. When the 2000 season ended and Arizona finished in third place in the NL West, we were in shock. How could this happen? To give the Diamondbacks credit, they didn’t panic. Instead, they went out and identified areas where they could improve and brought players in that could help them return to the post season. Now here we are in 2001, once again the National League Western Division Champions. The Diamondbacks are again facing the National League Wild Card team in a best of five series for a chance to play for the pennant. As I sit in my seat waiting for the player introductions, I have to wonder what I am expecting out of this series. Having been to every home game the Diamondbacks have ever played, I have seen my share of games against the St. Louis Cardinals. Every time these two teams get together something rare and unusual happens. First there was the game when Mark McGwire came to town and hit a ball out of the stadium during batting practice, a feat that only he has accomplished. Then there was that dreadful night in June 1999 when then rookie Jose Jimenez and the Cardinals came to Phoenix and no-hit the Diamondbacks overshadowing a great game by Randy Johnson. This was followed by the game in 2000 when Mark McGwire hit into a triple play. There never seems to be a dull moment when the Cardinals and the Diamondbacks play each other and I expect that will continue for the next five games. From the game one match up of two 22 game winners, I expect a hard fought battle between two of the National League’s best pitchers ending with one team capitalizing on the other’s mistakes. I anticipate watching as each team tries to make adjustments from inning to inning and from pitch to pitch as they battle back and forth trying to wear the other team’s ace out. I expect to see each pitcher to try and define the strike zone to their benefit making the hitters swing at their pitches rather than getting into a slugfest. I expect the fans to get into the game cheering every pitch and booing every call that does not go the way they wanted. I expect to see the managers locked in a mental chess game as double-switches, hit and run, and timely bunts are used to manufacture runs. Mostly though, I expect to renew my love of baseball and share the excitement of Major League Baseball with my family and friends while we watch the Diamondbacks march through the play-offs in route to their first World Series berth and ultimately a World Championship.

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