What’s in a D-backs’ name? How about a nickname?
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.– Mariano “The Sandman” Rivera. Ken “The Kid” Griffey, Jr. Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson.
Those are some memorable baseball nicknames out of the past.
Now in vogue at Salt River Fields: “Freight Train,” “Beef” and “Chip.”
Chip, of course, is Walter Hale, the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who is known solely by his nickname. Where does the name come from?
“Over the years, that’s a question that’s been asked a lot and I’ve never really had an answer,” Hale said. “My wife Judy finally got it out of my mom that she was a huge ‘My Three Sons’ fan so that’s where it came from.”
In sports, it’s all about cool nicknames. The D-backs have their share.
Last season, D-backs broadcaster Steve Berthiaume nicknamed outfielder David Peralta the “Freight Train” because he runs the bases “with complete reckless abandon.”
“He’s a big guy and when he runs full speed, he gets up a head of steam like a big freight train,” Berthiaume said. “I always think of the old Johnny Cash song, ‘Wreck of the Old 97’ about a freight train that’s busted off the tracks and is out of control down the side of a mountain. When I watch David Peralta run the bases, that’s what I think of, so he’s the Freight Train.”
Peralta is a fan of Berthiaume’s nickname, so much so Peralta now wears a custom T-shirt featuring a freight train with the No. 6 on the front of the train. The T-shirt also has Peralta’s silhouette in a lean back position at the plate with “Freight Train” in all caps below. He also has the initials “F.T.” written on the nub of his bats.
“I like it, everybody likes the name so far, you know it’s fun,’’ said Peralta. “It’s part of baseball to have fun and do something different.”
Next to Peralta in the clubhouse is another popular nickname: “Beef” Welington Castillo. More on that later. To Peralta, Castillo is known as “Guagua” (pronounced wawa).
“Guagua means like a big school bus or big truck,” Peralta said. “He does a different type of thing. He’s not fast, he’s not slow but he’s built like a big truck, that’s why I named him that.”
To everyone else, Castillo is known as “Beef.” His mother named him Welington and teammates would ask if he had ever tasted beef Wellington, to which he always replied no. That is until a road series last season took the D-backs to Washington D.C., where a local chef prepared the famous dish for him.
“I think that’s how I got it. It was the people just started calling me ‘Beef.’ I didn’t really know the purpose of it. But we were playing in Washington and they made me beef Wellington for the first time,” Castillo said. “It was really good.”
When asked if he likes his nickname, Beef replied, “Yeah, why not?”
“I’m not that kind of guy (to say), ‘I don’t like the name so I don’t want to be called that,’” Castillo said. “Whatever the fans want to call me, I’m into it.”
Berthiaume thinks the nickname is perfect for Castillo. “It goes pretty well with beef Wellington, especially with Welington Castillo hitting nothing but doubles and home runs, which he’s continued this spring,” he said. “Beef Welington, a power-hitting catcher, it’s a pretty nice fit.”
Castillo said Peralta’s nickname is his favorite. Chip agrees.
“In fact, the Freight Train even has his own shirt, so I think we have to say that’s our favorite one,” Hale said.