Diamondbacks give credit to tight-knit clubhouse culture during World Series run
Oct 26, 2023, 3:30 PM | Updated: 4:53 pm
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo exclaimed, “A connected team is a dangerous team” — give or take a couple expletives — during his victory speech after the wild card round win over the Brewers.
It is a theme he’d bring up a few times this postseason with the D-backs marching from the final wild card spot to the World Series, which starts Friday at the Texas Rangers.
Arizona’s clubhouse has a mix of younger players who have grown up in the system together developing relationships along with veteran from the 2021 debacle and new voices added since the end of 2022. So what is being a connected team even mean?
“I think that means we have a lot of really cool personalities and a lot of really cool perspectives around the clubhouse,” first baseman Christian Walker said Thursday. “I think what he’s getting at is the role players have on this team, personality wise, baseball wise and just truly buying into each other. I think when you’re coming up with a team and trying to create a culture, all those things are worth looking at.”
Ace pitcher Zac Gallen mentioned how coming to the ballpark became not fun in 2021 when the D-backs lost 110 games, but last season started to have a have a different feel to it.
He said the influence of young, energetic players who were close from playing together in the minors drew the veterans in. Their camaraderie was growing, and he said before the 2023 season that this clubhouse was the closest he’d been a part of.
“I think a lot of them have come up together, we’ve had some experience with that in other places of watching some of the kids come up together, develop together,” general manager Mike Hazen said this postseason. “I think it means a lot.
“I think in the moments in the postseason when the anxiety ratchets up, when everything matters a little bit more, I think the trust around and playing for and with the people that you love in your clubhouse, I do. I can’t objectively prove that, but it feels that way.”
So much of baseball is objective, numbers based and routine oriented, but a lot of it is feel, pressure and handling emotions to execute.
Trust is a word that has also come up a lot this postseason, especially when the D-backs trailed the Phillies 2-0 and then 3-2 in the NLCS with the final two games at Citizens Bank Park.
That has also led to a level of openness behind the scenes player to player. Rookie starter Brandon Pfaadt said he gets advice all the time from veterans Merrill Kelly and Gallen, watching their bullpens and modeling some of his game planning after them.
The D-backs added veteran Tommy Pham at the deadline, and his teammates, Lovullo and Hazen have complimented his voice in the room. Pham said he watched Alek Thomas hit in the cages early in his D-backs tenure, noticing noise with his lower half on some swings.
He went to the hitting coaches about what he saw.
“They were like, ‘You don’t think we’ve told him?'” Pham said. “I was like, ‘Let me try to talk to him.’ So I started talking to him about his swing and what I thought, and I started showing him things that I felt like he could do better to make him a harder out. He really took what I said and ran with it, man, and it’s been beautiful watching him continue to get better at it.”
Thomas played a significant role in Arizona’s series win over the Phillies, as he blasted the game-tying home run as a pinch hitter in Game 4 and reached base three times in Game 6.
He said after the game he wants to be in the lineup all the time but trusted the game plan and stayed ready. Lovullo praised his ability to do so and not get frustrated by the lineup choice against a lefty.
“We believe in synergy,” Lovullo said. “I gave you my definition of synergy at different times during the year, but the love and the connection in that clubhouse is real. You feel it every single day.”
Third baseman Evan Longoria had been to the postseason five times before signing with the D-backs last offseason. He was a rookie when the Tampa Bay Rays reached the 2008 Fall Classic.
He said he has been asked thousands of times about X-factors for contending teams when everyone left in the chase is really good.
“What makes good teams great? How do you build camaraderie within the clubhouse? I don’t really know the answer,” Longoria said during the NLCS. “I just know that this group, we are where we are because of those relationships in the clubhouse and because there’s 26 guys in there who are ready to sacrifice whatever it takes for the guy behind them or the guy in front of them.”
The D-backs tied the Game 7 of the NLCS after an Emmanuel Rivera single, a Perdomo bunt and a Corbin Carroll single. Gabriel Moreno held off a strike two pitch to allow Carroll to swipe second base, and he singled the rookie home for the lead.
This is basic execution, but in a hostile environment during a Game 7, these were young players passing the baton to set teammates up.
Yes, the D-backs are in the world series because their power has increased this postseason, the bullpen has been stellar and star players Ketel Marte, Moreno and Carroll have stepped up when needed.
But there’s an expressed belief in each other in the clubhouse that the Diamondbacks credit for helping them get here with five comeback victories in nine playoff wins.
“There’s a baseline of talent in that clubhouse that has allowed us to get to this point, but I think the camaraderie in this clubhouse has furthered that talent,” Carroll said during the NLCS. “I was talking about it yesterday with guys behind me willing to take a pitch to let me get a base for them, stuff like that. It’s a group of guys that likes being around each other.”