Déjà Byrnes

It has been quite a week for the Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Eric Byrnes. Byrnes was brought in this season as a stop gap to man centerfield until rookie Chris Young was ready to make the next step from AAA Tucson to the major leagues. Young had been touted as the eighth best prospect in all of the minor leagues and everyone anticipated that within a year he would be ready to move up. In the mean time Byrnes would platoon with Jeff DaVanon in center. Byrnes has been known throughout his career as being a very emotional player who gives his all on the field. After early success in Oakland Byrnes found himself becoming a journeyman as he moved from the Athletics to Colorado to Baltimore before being released last season. He was in desperate need of a fresh start and the opportunity with Arizona seemed the perfect fit. His level of effort and play far exceeded the expectations of the Diamondbacks and Byrnes found himself having a career year in many offensive categories. Along the way Eric has become a fan favorite at Chase Field.

As Byrnes continued to amass hits and stolen bases he soon found himself as only the second Arizona Diamondback to reach the plateau of 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Oddly enough the first person to do that also wore uniform number 22 and played center field. That of course was Devon White who was the first centerfielder in Diamondbacks history. To commemorate Eric Byrnes season the Arizona Diamondbacks announced a promotion for Saturday September 16 game. Centex Homes would sponsor Eric Byrnes Dirty T-Shirt night where they would give replicas of Byrnes jersey with dirt covering the front to recognize his uncanny knack of leaving everything on the field and making a mess of his clean uniform. The promotion offered 35,000 T-Shirts so everyone in attendance would be able to receive one.

Byrnes wanted to make this a special game and give back to the fans that have loyally supported him this season. He had several opportunities to make routine plays in center but nothing really out of the ordinary, at least not until the ninth inning that is. With the Diamondbacks clinging to a 2 run lead, Arizona brought in Jose Valverde to pitch the final inning. In typical fashion Valverde tried to make the game just a little more exciting. After walking a batter he gave up a hit to Jeff Baker to center. This should have been a single but Byrnes tried to make an extraordinary catch by diving for the ball. He missed it and the ball rolled all the way to the centerfield wall giving Baker a triple and allowing a run to score. Baker would then score on a wild pitch by Valverde to tie the game and send it into extra innings.

Typically extra innings means perhaps one or two before one team will gain the momentum and score. In this case neither team wanted to give up anything and the game continued well into the night. Eric Byrnes came up on two occasions with an opportunity to drive in the winning run and each time he was turned away. In the eleventh inning with a man on second Byrnes struck out. In the fifteenth inning he came up with the bases loaded and grounded out to the shortstop to end the inning. Finally in the bottom of the sixteenth the Diamondbacks were able to score a run when catcher Chris Snyder hit a sacrifice that scored Chris Young to give Arizona a 7-6 win. It was probably not the ending that Byrnes was hoping for but he was there cheering his teammates on at the conclusion of a game that lasted 5:07. Those still in attendance waved their dirty T-shirts and cheered for the home team.

On a game related note, manager Bob Melvin was ejected from the game in the second inning for arguing with home plate umpire Paul Emmel. The argument was surrounding the at-bat by Carlos Quentin. With two strikes on him, Quentin stood in the box when Rockies pitcher Josh Fogg threw an inside pitch that his Quentin on the forearm. Emmel called the pitch a strike meaning that Quentin was out. Carlos pleaded his case and showed the umpire the mark where the ball had hit him but Emmel would not listen. Melvin came out to argue the same point and after a heated exchange was thrown from the game. This means Carlos remains at 7 HBP for the season one behind the team lead. If at the end of Quentin’s career he finds himself one behind Hughie Jennings we can all meet and go over the Paul Emmel’s house to complain.

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