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THE SHAGGIN' 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."
As Byrnes 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
Whereas most 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 year."
Byrnes doesn't 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."