WAGON is on the move. It's 1 p.m. on a baking hot Thursday in Phoenix, a rare
off day for the Diamondbacks, and outfielder Eric Byrnes is taking his boys out
for lunch in his 2005 GMC Savana conversion van. Riding shotgun is his agent,
33-year-old Michael Sasson, all three-day scruff and Prada sunglasses. Lounging
in two of the leather bucket recliners behind them are best friend Scott Seal,
33—a former Padres minor leaguer who has known Byrnes since they played
together at UCLA—and the jut-jawed, cement-bicepsed Todd Leanues, Byrnes's
42-year-old strength and conditioning coach. Conversation centers on their
exploits of the previous night, spent in the wilds of Scotts-dale celebrating
Arizona's 9--6 win over San Diego. At one point in the evening, hungry from
late-night partying, Byrnes & Co. gave a rickshaw driver $100 to pedal to a
Jack in the Box, procure $40 worth of burgers and return. Says Byrnes,
"Hunger should never be denied."
navigates the strip-mall sameness of Phoenix's outer burbs, he describes the
wonders of the Shaggin' Wagon (the name means exactly what you think it means).
There's the '70s-style teardrop lighting, the moon roof, the 22-inch plasma
screen with DVD player and the back bench that, Byrnes notes, "converts
into a bed with the push of a button." At the feet of the DVD console are
three input jacks labeled VIDEO GAME CONNECTION, but Byrnes does not use them.
"I don't play video games," he declares, and he is a man who speaks in
declarations. "They're a waste of time."
Spend some time
around Byrnes, the unlikely star of the D-backs' unlikely pennant push, and
it's clear there are many things that the 31-year-old believes are a waste of
time. For example:
"We'll go out
for the night, and we'll be out late, I mean late," says Sasson. "Then
Byrnesie will be up at 7 a.m. yelling at us to get going." By that time
Byrnes will have already logged a workout. He begins every morning with at
least 20 minutes of cardio. "I literally roll off the rack and I'm on the
treadmill," he says. In this regard Byrnes likens himself to a golden
retriever who needs a run to achieve calm. "It's my peace, my solace,"
he explains. "I can't function without it."
• Players who
don't run out pop flies
major leaguers resign themselves to a dejected trot to first, Byrnes jerks one
into the sky and begins tearing around the bases as if racing a horse.
"Some people might think it's funny if I pop up and I'm sprinting around
first and I'm trying to get to second before the guy catches the ball," he
says. "But you know what? That's got me two or three doubles this
use it unless absolutely necessary. He also employs hand lotion to style his
thick blond hair, which can look from a distance as if a small, scared mammal
has perched on his head. Whatever, it seems to work: His coif is so popular
that, Sasson says, "it has its own career."