Goodbye, Snakepit!

Let me preface this by saying I don't know if anyone will actually see this. I'm even less sure that anyone will care, but as a diehard teal-and-purple guy, I owe you all a farewell.

I grew up in Yuma in the 1990s. If you're unfamiliar with the name, I guarantee you've eaten lettuce grown less than ten miles from where I attended elementary school. It's the winter produce capital of the United States. And when I was young, it was the Spring Training home of the San Diego Padres. I actually still have a signed Tony Gwynn Sr. baseball card. But I wasn't born in Yuma. No, my family moved 2,000 miles west when I was six months old. I was born in Atlanta.

One of my most vivid memories from my childhood was from the fall of 2001, after the country had settled down to play baseball again. It was roughly a month after the terrorist attacks, when the Braves visited the Diamondbacks for Game 2 of the NLCS. It was the team of my birthright versus the team I had literally grown up with. I was wearing a Diamondbacks shirt and a Braves cap as I walked into Bank One Ballpark before the game. A surly Atlanta fan made note of my attire.

"Hell, son, which team are you rooting for?" he asked.

I smiled the smile of sheltered teenage innocence. "I don't care," I announced. "I'm just happy to be here,"

The Braves won that night. It was the only game they'd win in the series. And a week later, I was cavorting in my parents' driveway, wearing nothing but my underwear, still not believing that Luis Gonzalez had beaten Mariano Rivera with a fractured length of hardwood.

I've lived and breathed Diamondbacks baseball ever since. I was here in 2004, when the only bright spot in a lost season was the second-brightest spot we've ever had, coincidentally involving my second-favorite team. I've endured through Brandon's shoulder and Conor's lungs. I've watched a guy out-strikeout his batting average and still lead the team in home runs. I've witnessed 'Schmidt happen. I've moped through Scherzer and Bauer winning Cy Youngs wearing unfamiliar uniforms. I've seen Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers and MVP votes aplenty, but nothing even approaching the high of that autumn night in 2001.

My wife and I moved from Scottsdale to Opelika, Alabama in July of this year. I've always followed the Braves; after all, they were my team before 1998. John Smoltz was always my favorite player, and I'd wanted to be a flamethrower since I was a little boy. Alas, God only saw fit to bless me with sixty-six inches, and athleticism a far cry from that of Ozzie Albies. On my return to the South, I embraced the team of my birthright, particularly Eddie Rosario, since I spent time in North Dakota while he was a Twin. Their playoff run was something familiar and excruciating, a nervous high I hadn't experienced since Archie's triple in 2017.

I was at work for Game Six of the World Series. I'd endeavored to watch as much baseball as possible given my schedule, an unpredictable rotation of twelve-hour nursing night shifts. That night, I was in a room with a patient who'd had a major stroke. He was a lifelong Braves fan, a Black man who had grown up during the integration of baseball. He'd seen Henry Aaron break the most important record in American sports. He might not have been coherent, but he was present when Dansby Swanson threw to Freddie Freeman for that all-important twenty-seventh out.

And it hit me at that point, when my supervisor finally unclenched his fists after nine innings of shutout baseball, six of which would have been un-televised in lieu of something more exciting during the season, that this wasn't my team. I've admired Freeman and Albies and Riley and Fried and Anderson from afar, but I wasn't emotionally invested like I was in Peralta and Marte and Gallen. Or Goldschmidt and Reynolds and Young and Upton. Or Kennedy and Haren and Putz and Valverde. The victory wasn't technically mine, so it rang hollow.

I'm a baseball fan, first and foremost. I'm not some mid-season acquisition, allegiances shifting like the wind according to who's selling, who's buying, and who has the most WAR to offer. I love the Diamondbacks, and have since the day they were born. But sometimes, life takes us places we don't expect. I kept the Sedona Red faith during my time in North Dakota. I stayed engaged through two seasons of heartache after I moved back to the Valley. And I followed the team to the bitter end of 2021, the second-worst season in franchise history.

But I'm not going back.

I've found a new home. In the three months I've been in Alabama, I've made more friends than in the two years I spent in Phoenix. I'll miss the Snakepit, and the many Diamondbacks diehards I've met along the way. But it's time to move on, both geographically and spiritually. With the future of baseball up in the air, I'm not sure I could remain loyal to one of the most tight-pursed franchises in the game no matter where life has taken me. Even before the relocation rumors, Ken Kendrick was a stake through the heart of a competitive Diamondbacks organization. I know that next spring, coming out the other side of what will be a fraught negotiation between the union and the owners, I don't want to be on team Kendrick.

I don't know why I felt the need to post this. Most of you don't know me. I'm only an occasional blip on Gameday Threads or SnakeBites. I guess it's the leaving that's the hardest part. Maybe I feel like I owe some explanation for changing my loyalty. Maybe I feel like I should get my ass kicked, like getting jumped out of a gang. Either way, I'm sad to say goodbye to the people I've met here. I'll miss you, and I'm sure I'll lurk from time to time, like Patrick Swayze in Ghost.

In the meantime, may fortune favor the red. Go Diamondbacks!