It was a routine pop fly to shallow right field — the kind your second baseman lollygags beneath — but you would never know it from the way 40-year-old catcher Henry Blanco left the batter’s box. Such hustle rarely rewards. The 13-year veteran has been around long enough to know that. Thursday night, though, was one of those nights when the little things paid dividends.
Instead of angrily casting his bat into the ground or half-heartedly shuffling to first base, Blanco scurried out of the batter’s box and around first base like he had just smoked a gapper to left center field. And, when he was about 20 feet from second base, his routine pop was dropped by Braves second baseman, Dan Uggla, putting the 220-pound Blanco safe on second base.
Later that fifth inning, Blanco came around to score the game-tying run on a sacrifice fly. (Mike Minor of the Braves, however, stifled the D-backs after Blanco’s run, going on to win 10-2.)
Is there a better way to get Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson to gush? Probably not.
“I just saw him hustling all the way and I thought, ‘If he drops that, he’s gonna be on second,'” Gibson said earlier today, as he recalled Blanco’s hustle. “When you ask me about veteran leadership — there you have it.”
“He doesn’t play very often,” Gibson said of Blanco. “[But] he knows his role and he lays it all out there.”
No matter the play time, the role, or the importance of the play, what Gibson wants to see from all 25 of his men is the voracity he embodied as a player — the stuff he emanates as a manager. That’s the product that he works tirelessly toward.
This D-backs team has been called blue collar and old school and overachieving. Their style of play, resolved, gritty, and Gibby. Whatever you call it, I don’t think it can be overstated — this is surely Kirk Gibson’s club.