It's only June, but I'm excited about the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yeah…everybody here in Arizona knows that I am a diehard Minnesota Twins fan, but I am also a fan of baseball being played the right way and D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has this team going in the right direction.
I'll admit, I was only eight years old when Gibson hit his game-winning home run against the A's in the 1988 World Series, but when I moved to Arizona and found out he was with the Diamondbacks, I immediately read up on him.
While doing my research I read that when he signed with the Dodgers, there was a very publicized blow-up when pitcher Jesse Orosco put black shoe polish inside his hat during spring training as a prank. Gibson then proceeded to openly rip the team for its unprofessionalism after they had finished fourth in the National League West the year before.
To me, this story didn't sound too far off from the Kirk Gibson we came to know at Diamondbacks spring training this year. Gibson quickly established rules for the clubhouse that were both fair and clear. No talking on cell phones in the clubhouse, texting is allowed, but only up until 30 minutes before game time. Gibson also made a rule that there are no toys or remote control airplanes allowed in the clubhouse or on the field before games.
Gibson's approach since being named interim and full-time manager has always been the same….respect the players and it will be reciprocated. He understands not all players come from the same place or got to this level the same way. He knows not all players are motivated in the same way and he doesn't expect guys to push themselves to the breaking point like he did. What Gibson does expect is effort, integrity, focus and above all else, he expects the guys to have fun.
Gibson doesn't hide his passion for the game and that's part of what made him such an amazing player and now it makes him a great manager. He can look these players in the eye and say "been there, done that." He can relate to what they're feeling and thinking. He understands when to get on guys about things and when to pick them up.
The Diamondbacks are currently a half game out of first place in the NL West and they're 31-26. More than half of their wins (17), they've come from behind…that number leads the Majors.
The stats and numbers are a sign of the positive steps this club has taken but, really, it's Kirk Gibson's style that keeps me glued to the TV for all 27 outs.