I was in college in 2011, and wasn't actually a writer for this website yet. Weird, I know. However, On this day back then, the Diamondbacks were hosting a "College Night" which meant $5 tickets in the nosebleeds, so I felt like I applied (even though the online ticketing there didn't check whether or not you were in college.) I was also feeling kinda overwhelmed with it at the time, I won't bore you with details, so I thought that driving up from Tucson for a game would be a nice thing to help clear my head.
Of course, that game had a caveat that no Diamondbacks game since has had: If they were to defeat the defending champion San Francisco Giants, they would clinch the National League West title. It wasn't do or die, obviously. There was a week plus left in the season and the chances of the Diamondbacks losing out combined with the Giants winning out were minuscule. However, on the face of it it seemed unlikely that it would happen this night as the pitching matchup was Matt Cain (kids: he was healthy and good once) against Joe Saunders. A strong link in a strong Giants rotation against a guy who everyone thought was the only piece of the Dan Haren trade so they got mad (because they were dumb.)
I was busy the next few days so this was my shot, so why not. I sat in the 300 level right behind home plate, or as they should call it, "Thank goodness I don't have vertigo." "College Night" lived up to its name, as I saw more than a few people wearing that very public place appropriate Arizona State shirt that said "I eat p**** with a fork" (Which raises a lot of questions that I don't want answered) combined with a Giants hat, so that made me immediately hostile.
A lot of details of that game were a blur, but there's a few things I distinctly remember:
- Despite not being on the writing staff yet, I did purchase an AZ Snakepit.com t-shirt earlier in the year and wore it to that game. A popcorn vendor noticed it after he and his Sherpa guide braved going up as high as I was and said he read it and liked the articles there.
- I kept score until about the 5th inning when my mechanical pencil ran out of lead. I have that scorebook somewhere, but I moved since then and can't find it for the life of me. It would be a nice momento.
- This was before everyone had a smart phone, and I realized while driving through Eloy or so that I had forgotten my digital camera. Whoops.
- Even when the Diamondbacks were good, there were still too many people who had never at any point in their life lived west of the 101 Loop rooting for the Giants.
The game itself was pretty close. The "You're not gonna clinch, Joe Saunders is pitching" scenario became more realistic as he allowed a Homer to Orlando Cabrera, who was at the tail-end of his career and hadn't homered in something like 14 years. The Diamondbacks didn't get on board til Chris Young doubled in a run in the 7th.
But really, the thing that sticks out to me from this game above all else was how it was won. Paul Goldschmidt was less than two months into his Major League career, and had impressed. With two on in the 8th in a tie game against Sergio Romo, Paul Goldschmidt put his foot in the door of being the superstar franchise player we know him as today.
I can also confirm what Mark Grace said that the place was losing its collective (I assume the next word was something booze related) It was an energy that probably hasn't been felt in Chase Field since. It sounds cliche but it is really hard to describe. There wasn't much time for it to settle, either, as J.J. Putz came in and got the save. Boom. Division champs.
I went to where the entrance to the concourse was and just watched the celebration from there. Just thinking "Shiiiiiiiiiit this is awesome! We could win this whole damn thing!"
It's weird to look back at it now, considering the rather tragic fall of the team since then. There is a bit of sadness, since there's a feeling of a certain primal joy that hasn't been felt since then and might not be felt for awhile, and makes you retroactively grumpy about Kevin Towers, Ryan Braun, Dave Stewart, and the whole shebang that happened in the months and years after.
In the moment, it was amazing. If any team you like has a chance of clinching something and you can go, you do it, even if it doesn't look probable on that day. You never know what's going to happen.