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Arizona Diamondbacks utility man Daniel Descalso still an Aggie at heart

Arizona Diamondbacks' Daniel Descalso follows through on a two-run home run against the Colorado Rockies during the third inning of the National League wild-card playoff baseball game, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Whether you are a college basketball fanatic or an eight-year MLB veteran, there is no question that March is a month for basketball.

For Arizona Diamondbacks utility man Daniel Descalso, he will be keeping a particularly close eye on all of the madness that comes with the month.

Prior to being selected in the third round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Descalso was a standout at UC Davis in the Sacramento area, playing second base and ranging all over the diamond for the Aggies.

While Descalso was a standout with the baseball program, there is another sport gaining some attention on the UC Davis campus right now.

Last weekend, the UC Davis men’s and women’s basketball teams clinched Big West regular-season titles.

Both teams enter their respective Big West Conference tournament as the No. 1 seed, and on the men’s side, the team will hope to repeat its success from last season, when they became first team in program history to reach the NCAA Tournament.

“I follow all of the sports in general (at UC Davis). They aren’t always on TV, but I follow them on Twitter, so I saw that (the men’s team) had a big double-overtime win against Irvine,” Descalso said. “It was fun to have them in the tournament last year, and hopefully they win the Big West Tournament again … I’ll be rooting for them.”

During Descalso’s playing career in Davis, the Northern California native hit .320 while playing nearly every game during his freshman year, and he was responsible for 20 multi-hit games, including a game against Portland where he went 5 for 5 with 5 RBI’s in a seven-inning game.

Although Descalso has gone on to become a World Series Champion and now a tenured MLB veteran, the former Aggie still returns to his roots.

“I am still pretty connected to the baseball program and I keep in contact with the coaching staff up there, and I usually go to the golf tournament they have in the offseason,” Descalso said.

As for filling out any brackets, Descalso is looking forward to seeing his former school possibly compete on a national stage, even noting that he will look for the Aggies to be a mid-major bracket buster.

“I will fill one out (a bracket). Last year, they had the play-in game, so they won that to play two games,” Descalso said. “I’ll definitely pick with the Aggies.”

Similar to UC Davis taking part in a First Four game in the NCAA Tournament, the Diamondbacks were a part of a play-in game in last year’s NL Wild Card Game, and they were a team that surprised a lot of people, going 93-69 before getting knocked out in their National League Division Series matchup with the Dodgers.

With both teams shattering expectations, the Diamondbacks will look to grow off of their success with a core group of returning players, including Descalso.

“Obviously we had a nice run last year to get into the playoffs and winning that Wild Card game,” Descalso said. “For a lot of guys in this room, it was their first taste of a pennant race and their first taste of October baseball. … Last year at this time, we were trying to figure out what kind of group we had and whether we were going to win or compete. I think we know the answer to that question now.”

During last year’s postseason run, Descalso was the ultimate Swiss Army knife for the Diamondbacks, playing all over the infield and outfield, and the savvy veteran even made an appearance on the mound last August during a blowout loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Regardless of what is asked or where he has to play, Descalso has been up to the task, and it served the Diamondbacks in a variety of ways, including when Paul Goldschmidt was out of the lineup because of injury toward the end of last season.

Going into this season, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo noted that he is looking to give his franchise first baseman more time off, and Descalso will be at the forefront of helping to give Goldschmidt a breather.

“On a given night when we need immediate assistance, we have a category that we are following and we know who those guys are, and we feel very comfortable with them,” Lovullo said. “Descalso and (Chris Herrmann) played a lot of first base last year, and they were good at picking up the ball and taking care of business.”

With a first base mitt and a variety of gloves at hand, Descalso will be ready whenever his number is called.

“I kind of know what to expect now with just bouncing around to a couple of different spots,” Descalso said. “It’s kind of just re-familiarizing myself (in spring training) with all of the different angles and reads off of the bat, but I have been doing it for a while. It doesn’t take too long to get that going again.”

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