A Good First Step!
Eric Byrnes got off to a good start as the Diamondbacks opened their Cactus League season with a 9-2 victory over a White Sox split-squad.
Admittedly, it was not an immediate good start. With the Snakes playing the vistors’ role–these two teams share Tucson Electric Park–and Eric leading off, he was literally the start of the Diamondbacks’ spring season, and he struck out. <cringe>.
But in the third inning, he hit a two-out single to right–that’s opposite field for him–stole second and scored what was then the tying run on a Chad Tracy hit. (That’s practicing clutchness, guys!)
In the fifth, Byrnesie walked on four pitches. I liked this, too, as he needs to walk more. Although he got picked off first and caught in a rundown, it took a bunch of throws to get him. Owner Matt Williams was still pleased with what he saw. "That’s the New Mr. Excitement!" he told the broadcasters. Williams is really pleased to see that Byrnes and today’s No 2 hitter, Orlando Hudson, bring speed to the top of the lineup, and he noted that even though Byrnes got picked off that second time, he was able to mess with the defense. With his speed and aggressiveness, Byrnesie can truly get into a pitcher’s (and catcher’s) head. Byrnes spent years with an organization (the Moneyball Oakland A’s) that does not value this type of play. The Diamondbacks seem to be a team that appreciates his speed and is willing to play hit-and-run and let him steal. So one thing they need to do is teach him the finer points of base thievery. (Rickey Henderson, where are you?) Eric Byrnes loves to learn how to be a better player. I look forward to Byrnesie swiping upwards of thirty bags this season.
Eric also had a good day in the field, including a second inning play in which he held what could have ended up a double or triple to a single, by attacking the ball and throwing to the cut off man. The announcers also said that Diamondback’s left fielder, Luis Gonzalez, has said he has learned that he has to stop in left center because Byrnes will go after balls hit there. The centerfielder has the right-of-way to get every ball he can and Byrnesie exercises that right to the max!
Everyone was waxing lyrical about Byrnes’ energy and attitude. Of course, he can’t bear the burden of keeping the team spirits high all by himself. Not even he and Orlando Hudson, the other big bundle of energy the D’Backs got this off-season, can do it by themselves. They can set examples by being themselves. But desire to play hard every day, enjoyment of the game, and belief in self and in the team has to exist across the board in order for a team to take its next step forward.
So the first game of spring training went well both for Byrnes and the D’Backs. And while it was only the first game of spring training, a good spring start is important to a player who had a bum prior season. In such a case, spring training is not just about achieving physical readiness to play a long season of baseball, but of rebuilding confidence.
And as I wrote on August 25, 2005, about my own attitude, "ANY TIME ERIC BYRNES GETS A HIT, OR MAKES A GREAT DEFENSIVE PLAY, IS AN OCCASION TO BE OF GOOD CHEER."
In other news, MLB.com’s Diamondbacks’ beat reporter Steve Gilbert was nice enough to answer an email I sent to him yesterday about his article saying Byrnes’ days off would come against left-handers. He wrote:
Typo on my part. I meant right-handers for Byrnes as DaVanon is a better hitter from the left side. Thanks for keeping me honest. Steve Steve Gilbert Reporter MLB.com
Typos, goodness knows we all make them. But I am going to pick on this note also. The way it’s written, it can be read as implying that Byrnesie is a switch-hitter. He’s not; he’s strictly a righty, which is one of the reasons the D’Backs wanted him. They’ve got a lot of lefties in their lineup. Of course, I still take issue with the "Byrnes’s days off," and I hope he does so well this year that manager Bob Melvin will pencil him in everyday.
Also, the purple hair dye came out too dark to be as rad as I wanted it to be, so I will have to try again at a later date. I will have it figured out by the time I take cover shots for the poetry book I will publish before All-Star break. In the meantime, I am going off to teach that apprentice newswriting class decked out in my authentic D’Backs fitted road cap, and my new Byrnesblog jersey with the Arizona colors, the latter of which I am wearing for the first time today, to celebrate the start of Cactus League. This way the apprentices will know that the journalist is also a baseball blogger. It’s a very sick world out there, full of war, disease, climate change, poverty, etc. We need to have other things to think about and write about. In my case, baseball keeps me sane, and Eric Byrnes doing well keeps me happy.