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Green: Fan Fest brings dreams of a fresh start for Diamondbacks

A fresh start.

As the Diamondbacks hosted their 2011 Fan Fest at Chase Field Saturday afternoon, one couldn’t help but sense excitement and optimism. Granted, a 65-97 season allows a team to only go one way, one would think: up.

Still, a sunny day and a revamped roster held hope of a new beginning for the team, something managing general partner Ken Kendrick said is very exciting.

“The new Salt River facility, a new general manager, really a new manager in Gibby, his first full season, a lot of new players, a chance to get it right,” he said.

The chance to get it right, again, is something every team not named the Giants is hoping to take advantage of right now. Granted, not every team has as much room to improve as the Diamondbacks but, as Kendrick said, it is not as if the cupboard is bare.

“We have a strong core of players that come back, young, talented players,” he said, referring to Miguel Montero, Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson, Justin Upton and Chris Young.

Combined with a pitching staff that seemed to improve over the course of last season (bullpen notwithstanding) and some veteran additions, Kendrick said he thinks the team has the right blend of players to get back to being competitive.

Of course, if the team is to improve the changes the team has made personnel-wise will need to work out. Gone are players like Mark Reynolds and his 400 foot homers followed by four strikeouts, Adam LaRoche’s inconsistency and Brandon Webb’s, well, Brandon Webb, and in their place are names like Melvin Mora, Juan Miranda, Geoff Blum and Armando Galarraga. Kendrick is confident the new guys will be suitable replacements on the field as well as in the hearts of fans.

But, as we all know, winning is the fastest and easiest way to earn support in the Valley. That, unfortunately, is something the D-backs have not done much of recently. Still, a solid crowd Saturday may be a sign that sports fans are ready for baseball season, especially after the way the popular Suns and Cardinals have struggled. Young, who is one of the few remaining everyday players left from the 2007 NLCS team, said it’s a good sign so many people came out.

“It lets you know how much support we still do have in the city, and hopefully even more than we’ve had in the past,” he said.

Oh, the past. The Diamondbacks, not surprisingly, would like to leave it there. And on February 12, 2011, the future looks bright for a team that has suffered through some dark days.

“The sky’s the limit, there’s no telling what we can do this year and we’re ready to go,” Young said.

The first game that counts will be played Friday, April 1. Until then we won’t know what this baseball team will be. Will they be a team, like last year’s, that is irrelevant by May? Or, perhaps, will this team surprise the baseball world, again, and make a playoff run? Or, perhaps they’ll be something in between.

Either way, those questions are what make this time of year exciting for every fan in America. Every team has a chance at a fresh start. Here’s hoping the Diamondbacks take advantage of theirs.