The Baby 'Backs are a year older and a year better
Posted: Wednesday March 12, 2008 6:04PM; Updated: Wednesday March 12, 2008 6:04PM
TUCSON, Ari. -- Asking second-year Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds about advice he's received from the team's few veterans while Eric Byrnes, his outspoken teammate and locker neighbor, was within earshot was doomed from the start. Predictably, the players with matching mops of fratastic blonde hair were stumbling over each other to answer the question.
Byrnes: "You better talk good, you hear me, Reynolds?"
Reynolds: "Eric doesn't really tell me much..."
Byrnes: "Life lessons."
Reynolds: "Mainly he tells me I need to eat better."
Byrnes: "Eat better, start working out."
Reynolds: "I work out plenty."
Byrnes: "Hang out with the guys a little more. Focus on camaraderie, team chemistry. What else you got?"
Reynolds: "There you go, you answered it for me."
Byrnes: "He's got a lot to learn."
At this point Byrnes was hooked. In between bites of his English muffin with ham and egg, he was ready to help Reynolds answer the next question, too, and explain what the third baseman has been working on this spring.
Reynolds: "Mainly consistency at the plate."
Byrnes: "Staying on top of the ball, driving the ball the other way, shortening your hack."
Reynolds: "That's not really my game. [stands up, apparently frustrated] I'm trying to give this interview right now."
Byrnes: "I'm just trying to help him out, it's part of the process."
Reynolds: "I'm always learning, there you go."
Turnabout, of course, is fair play, so when the line of questioning led to Byrnes' career year and what he might do for an encore, it was Reynolds who chimed in first.
Reynolds: "Stay consistent in the second half."
Byrnes: "Stay consistent in the second half, keep my eye on guy like Reynolds and make sure he doesn't slack off."
Clearly, the youthful Diamondbacks compete as well with each other in the clubhouse as they do on the field with the rest of the National League.
"It's a situation I never thought I'd be in if I ever made it to the big leagues, having so many young guys," Reynolds said. "But it's actually worked out great."
That could be primarily because that Arizona, whose overwhelming youth earned it the nickname "Baby 'Backs", also earned a far more desired title: NL West champions.
Indeed, the D-Backs managed to post the N.L.'s best record (90-72) despite having a regular lineup that featured five players who are no older than 25. Among them are first-round picks Justin Upton, Stephen Drew and Conor Jackson, and a pair of 16th-rounders, Mark Reynolds out of the University of Virginia and Chris Young from Houston's Bellaire High School (drafted by the White Sox but acquired in the Javier Vazquez trade).
The lone veterans are the 32-year old Byrnes, 30-year old All-Star second baseman Orlando Hudson and 27-year old corner infielder Chad Tracy. Save two reserves, catcher Robby Hammock and infielder Augie Ojeda, everyone else was born in the '80s.