When a team makes an unexpected MLB playoff run, there are all the things we see: players getting their chance to shine under the bright lights of the postseason, sold-out stadiums and a city coming alive as its team becomes baseball’s version of a Cinderella story. But when even the members of the team upsetting its way through the postseason didn’t see it coming, there is a behind-the-scenes scramble to rearrange plans made before the realization that division series and league championship series dates would rule their October calendars.
In the case of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who just might be the most surprising LCS participant in MLB history, that has meant everything from telling a legendary rock band to find another date to play their home ballpark to nonrefundable vacation plans gone awry and wedding RSVPs changed from “will attend” to “regretfully declined.”
First, it was the venue the Diamondbacks play in that had to adjust — not uncommon when facilities are used for multiple purposes. A Guns N’ Roses concert scheduled at Chase Field during the divisional series was moved, while an event scheduled for this Saturday — a Hispanic Family Fiesta — might not be held either, if the D-backs can force a Game 5 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Diamondbacks weren’t even assured a postseason berth until the second-to-last day of the regular season. Then came their stunning sweeps of the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers in the first two rounds of the playoffs, leaving many within the organization hurrying to adjust their plans.
“I have a pending rotator cuff procedure that I’ve put off twice this month,” front office special assistant Jason McLeod said. “Now it’s in mid-November. First date was Oct. 7 and then the 19th. I’m OK with it.”
Some plans can’t be changed, though.
Catcher Gabriel Moreno and his wife timed having a baby for near the end of the regular season. Gabby Jr. arrived on time, meaning that Dad would not be home for up to the first month of his son’s life. The Morenos decided that was too long to be apart, so their newborn baby got on a plane to Philadelphia for Games 1 and 2.
“He’s at the hotel,” Moreno said through an interpreter. “But in another room.”
Reliever Ryan Thompson is in seminary school and planned a larger course load for this month when he assumed one way or another his baseball season would long be over.
“What’s interesting for me is two months ago I was rotting in Triple-A with Tampa, so the thought of October baseball seemed unlikely,” Thompson said. “So I took an extra course. Now, I’m kind of regretting it.”
All this winning means advance scout Jeff Gardner has to watch the games this week on TV as his daughter gets married in California, while outfielder Corbin Carroll doesn’t have that luxury. He’s missing family time to help keep his team’s season going.
“I had a couple flights booked to Seattle for my sister’s senior night, so not making that,” Carroll said with a smile. “I’m sure she’ll understand.”
Should the Diamondbacks add another chapter to their surprising story by rallying from a 2-0 National League Championship Series deficit to defeat the Phillies for a spot in the World Series, another round of plans will be interrupted.
“I have a wedding on the 26th,” reliever Kevin Ginkel said. “It’s my college roommate. I got a suit for it and everything. If we’re still playing, I’ll have to postpone that. I’m not complaining. I would like to miss it.”
Even a veteran like Evan Longoria, who has played in 42 postseason games with three different teams in his 16-year major league career, did not necessarily expect to still be playing in late October — and he might have to eat a sizable chunk of money as a result.
“My wife booked this cruise with the kids at the end of the month,” Longoria said. “It’s nonrefundable. I mean, we talked about the playoffs but we figured better to book it and cancel. It means we’re deep into the postseason. [Laughing] She thought a playoff share would offset it anyway.”
Now that the Diamondbacks plan to become October mainstays, maybe the players in the clubhouse will learn a lesson from their general manager. Last October, Mike Hazen planned a fishing trip to Montana with his kids in October. But that was when his team was on its way to losing 88 games. He had more faith this time around — despite a nine-game losing streak after the All-Star break.
“This year I said no chance,” Hazen said defiantly. “I was hopeful.”
His faith paid off as the Diamondbacks went from 110 losses in 2021 to 84 wins this season. Then came five more in the wild-card and divisional rounds. While a surprise postseason run might be the only time loved ones are cool with being blown off, the Diamondbacks can take a look across the field to see how a team rich with playoff experience approaches October.
“I think you’ve got to earn it, and at the same time you’ve got to expect it,” said Phillies shortstop Trea Turner, who is making his sixth playoff appearance. “If you want to get here, you have to have confidence in yourself. Yeah, I haven’t made plans in October for a long time, and hopefully that’s never the case.”
For the upstart Diamondbacks, changing vacation plans, putting off family matters and even telling Axl Rose to come back another time was all part of becoming MLB’s darlings for one unexpected month. Perhaps next year their October commitments will be free and clear — just not this time around.
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