It Smells Like the Play-offs

The days are getting progressively shorter. Temperatures are dropping and in many parts of the country cooler nights give way to frost and a reminder that summer is now behind us. Leaves are starting to change colors bringing a cornucopia of hues to the hillsides. Grass which has long been green during the summer months will soon be going dormant. All of this though goes relatively unnoticed in Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis. In these cities thoughts are still entrenched in the thoughts of summer days and baseball. After 45 days of Spring Training filled with hope and anticipation and 182 days of following hometown favorites battle through the regular season eight teams have emerged to compete for the ultimate prize, a World Series trophy. For fans of the other 22 teams who saw their seasons end on Sunday it is a bitter sweet notion that their players are now gone from sight and mind for five long months until the spring flowers again appear bringing with them new hope that this will be the year that their team will join the ranks of the play-off teams.

While I am a diehard Arizona Diamondbacks fan I am ultimately a baseball fan. So while the Diamondbacks players have all begun packing their things and saying good bye to teammates some for the last time, my thoughts turn towards the play-offs which begin today. As a fan who has diligently watched nearly every Diamondbacks game that has been played this year either from my seat at Chase Field or at home in my replica seat from Bank One Ballpark, I still have a connection with many of these teams. Whether it be the Diamondbacks National League West fellow competitors the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers or National League foes the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals; there are players and teams I have grown to know. The Diamondbacks also had an opportunity to play against the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics during Spring Training and Arizona traveled to Oakland for an Inter League game during the season. Of all the teams in the play-offs only Detroit and Minnesota have not been connected to Arizona some time this season. So in a sense these play-offs are an extension of the Diamondbacks. While I would love to be dusting off my Diamondbacks hat and jersey for a trip to a play-off game at Chase Field, I will be content sitting at home knowing that while baseball may be over this season for my team, it continues on for others. I can live vicariously through the excitement each of those fans are feeling as their team moves on.

This time of year can’t help but hearken back to the magical season for all Diamondbacks fans when in 2001 a upstart franchise challenged the senior members of baseball forcing their way into the play-offs in just their third year of existence. As far as the country and many baseball people were concerned the Arizona Diamondbacks were arrogant and did not belong. They had not paid their dues like those that went before them. They were accused by many of buying a pennant by loading their team with veteran players. The notion seemed almost comical especially coming from the likes of Red Sox and Cubs fans whose teams have spent heavily every year to try and lead them to the play-offs. The analogy of a young kid thumbing his nose at the establishment was probably appropriate. The 2001 Diamondbacks played with a passion and an expectation that the season and the series were theirs to take.

So as the 2006 play-offs are scheduled to begin today all baseball fans will be focused on these eight teams to see who will be able to catch lightning in a bottle and surge forth and put together a winning streak that will propel them into the history books. For those of us not fortunate enough to be at a game, we have an excuse to eat another hot dog, grab a bag of peanuts, and sit down to watch a few games and remember what it was like when our team was playing on national television and we were in the stands cheering until our voices gave out.

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