Fresh from a 6-1 road trip that began in Denver for four games with the Colorado Rockies and finishing with a three game sweep of the Houston Astros deep in the heart of Texas; the Arizona Diamondbacks returned home to Chase Field brimming with confidence and atop the National League Western Division.
At the beginning of the month the Diamondbacks were 6.5 games back and looked to be struggling as they had the previous two seasons. The bullpen while better than an MLB worst in 2010 was still cause for some concern (except for the closer’s spot which was still perfect in save opportunities).
The starting pitching too caused fans a little queasiness. Ian Kennedy was having a good year but the other starters had struggled at times leaving everyone to wonder whether the Diamondbacks had the arms to compete.
On May 14th those questions began to be answered at least in the short-term. The Diamondbacks were in Los Angeles and were mired in a 5-game losing streak as part of a 1-6 road trip to that point.
Behind rookie Josh Collmenter, Arizona would win 1-0 and then take the next game 4-1 on a strong start by Kennedy. The team would return to Chase Field and after losing the first game to the San Diego Padres would take the next six games in the home stand beating San Diego, Atlanta, and Minnesota.
Suddenly the team could do no wrong. Each night they would find some new way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. They quickly became the hottest team in Major League Baseball and people everywhere began to take notice.
Well, everywhere it seems but Arizona. When the Diamondbacks returned home in first place to take on the Florida Marlins they were greeted by a meager 23,465 announced crowd with actual attendance much lower.
There were at least 24,535 empty seats that could have been used by baseball fans watching the home team put on a baseball clinic for the Marlins. Those in attendance witnessed how hot these Diamondbacks actually are.
Kelly Johnson would go 4-6 with four extra-base hits and he would not even have the best night on the team. That honor would go to right fielder Justin Upton who went 5-5 with a towering home run that would land in Friday’s Front Row Grill.
In all the Diamondbacks would collect 15 runs on 19 hits just missing the franchise best mark by one. Both Johnson and Upton would come within one hit of hitting for the cycle. The pitching would struggle initially then finish strong giving everyone confidence this style of baseball is not a passing fluke but something we should expect for the remainder of the season.
It’s difficult to ascertain what is causing the fans not to support this team. Perhaps it is the fact that for two-plus seasons the Diamondbacks were so awful that they were nearly unbearable to watch. Maybe it is the bandwagon mentality that seems to permeate the city where they will only choose to root for the home team after they have proven themselves.
No one can really say for sure but the fact is that there are a lot of people who are missing out on seeing some amazing baseball being played in their own backyard. From the towering home runs of Justin Upton to the acrobatic catches by Chris Young to the cannon arm of Gerardo Parra there is a lot to like about this team and that’s just in the outfield.
With yesterday’s game there were a couple of indicators that hopefully will continue to trend upward. The Diamondbacks sold 4,200 walk-up tickets for yesterday’s game, the second highest total of the season. Fox Sports Arizona recorded their highest rating of any baseball game this season with last night’s telecast.
The interest in the Diamondbacks may be beginning to rise and I’m grateful to see that but its just not the same with a stadium more than half empty. People should be coming to the ballpark in droves cheering on manager Kirk Gibson and his aptly named brand of Gibby Ball.
The players deserve to be playing in front of a packed house who recognize the hard work they have put in from the moment they arrived at Spring Training. The Diamondbacks front office has bent over backwards to make the games affordable and boast the most fan-friendly venue in Major League Baseball.
The team has done their part to put a compelling product on the field. It is now up to us to step up to the turnstiles and support this franchise and these players. This winning streak cannot go on forever and the team is likely going to come back to earth after such a sustained run of good luck but wouldn’t you just kick yourself if they continued to play this style of baseball and you weren’t there to see it?
So much can happen each time you walk into a MLB stadium. This could be the night that history is made and you could see something never done before. As for me, I plan on being in the stands cheering for the greatest game invented and rooting for the home team. We’ve waited long enough for good baseball it’s time to come out to the ballpark and revel in it.