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10/03/07 11:17 PM ET
Colangelo returns to throw out first pitch
Former managing general partner visits after a year away
By Michael Schwartz / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Jerry Colangelo brought baseball -- and a world championship -- to Arizona.
After a year away from Chase Field, Colangelo returned to the ballpark for the D-backs' first playoff game since he was in charge to throw out the first pitch before Wednesday's Game 1 against the Cubs.
In a moment sure to stir memories of the 2001 World Series champion D-backs, Colangelo lobbed the ball to injured pitcher Randy Johnson, a co-MVP of that World Series, to the applause of a raucous crowd.
"I thought it was an honor and I think it's just the right thing to do, and it was fun to do it," said Colangelo, who added it was a nice touch to have Johnson be the recipient of the throw.
Colangelo served as Arizona's managing general partner from the franchise's inception until 2004, when Ken Kendrick took his place. At the time, a somewhat strained relationship existed between Colangelo and new D-backs ownership in part because of the debt the club found itself in after the hefty payroll and subsequent deferred contracts that led to the title.
However, it was Kendrick who personally called Colangelo on Tuesday afternoon to ask him if he would return to throw out the first pitch after not attending a game since the 2006 finale to honor Luis Gonzalez in his final game as a member of the D-backs.
"My thought to do this was to kind of connect the great success of the past to the present," Kendrick said. "There's been an undercurrent that I think has been unfairly reported, that we've forgotten our past and that we don't revere what happened under Jerry and with players like Luis Gonzalez. We certainly don't feel that's the case, and we want to show that."
Colangelo, who had also worked with the Phoenix Suns in some capacity since 1968 before his tenure ended at the conclusion of the 2006-07 season, finds himself on the outside of a major Phoenix sports franchise for the first time in almost 40 years, concentrating instead on his position as managing director of USA Basketball.
"You get to a point in your life where you go on to other things," Colangelo said. "I spent 40 years with teams and I've got other things on my agenda now, but I still have a passion and a love for these teams that I started and built and gave birth to, so that's something that never goes away."
It's ironic that the D-backs played host to the Cubs in Colangelo's return to the ballpark he helped build, as the Chicago native Colangelo rooted for the Cubs in his youth. Their 99-year championship drought helps Colangelo put in perspective what he accomplished in bringing Arizona its only major professional championship six years ago.
"We were very blessed and fortunate to win one in four years in Arizona, and I'm very proud of that," Colangelo said.