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10/07/07 7:44 PM ET
D-backs return home to proud fans
Phoenix brims with excitement as team prepares for NLCS
By Michael Schwartz / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Welcome home.
That's the message D-backs fan Mary Carson shouted to Arizona's players as they left the ballpark after arriving in Phoenix on Sunday afternoon from a successful trip to Chicago, where the club won Game 3 of the National League Division Series to move into the next round.
Memories of Saturday's evening champagne celebration were still fresh in D-backs players' minds when they came home, with it being the second such champagne shower in as many weeks for the National League West champions.
"It was exciting just to get out there," said center fielder Chris Young. "You know how much hard work you've put in to get to the point that we got, and it's paying off for us huge so far. Hopefully we'll have a couple more celebrations, but we're just trying to take it a series at a time and go out there and get ready for Colorado now."
First baseman Conor Jackson said the celebration did not match the length of the one Sept. 28 in Colorado when the club clinched a playoff spot, but the players still enjoyed themselves.
"A situation like last night, it was awesome, good experience," Jackson said. "We've got some more games to go, but hopefully we can keep this going."
Both Arizona and Colorado will have four days without games before the National League Championship Series starts on Thursday at Chase Field.
Young said he plans on relaxing and watching some of the American League playoffs between workouts during a break that Jackson said will be very nice for the club.
"I think it's good that both of the teams are going to get some days off," Jackson said. "It's a pretty even matchup."
On the opposite side of the ballpark from where the players arrived, Friday's Front Row Grill employee Ivan Navarrete said the bar area was full for Saturday's Game 3, with many more people coming down to watch the game than what the restaurant typically sees on a Saturday.
"We had pretty much all the tables full," Navarrete said. "For a regular Saturday, it was pretty packed."
George Kief, a D-backs season-ticket holder since the franchise's inception in 1998, ate lunch at Friday's with his father on Sunday afternoon and said he sees his team starting to get the credit he feels it deserves.
Kief was surprised that many national pundits deemed the D-backs the underdogs against the Cubs -- despite winning more games than Chicago and having a former Cy Young Award winner in Brandon Webb -- which he attributed to Arizona playing in a smaller market than the Cubs.
"Until you play a big-market team and beat them, you don't get any credit," Kief said.
As the D-backs move on to play the Rockies in the NLCS, a matchup few would have predicted three months ago, Kief sees civic support brewing for the young D-backs.
"This is such a breath of fresh air for the community," he said. "Going to so many games when we had 18,000 or 19,000, nobody knowing who we had, now I go to the office and the girls in the office even know who some of the players are, and they didn't know that three months ago. They couldn't have cared less."
Decked out in a Randy Johnson jersey and D-backs hat, Jesse Newell felt the excitement in the air in downtown Phoenix as he picked up his tickets for Game 1 of the NLCS.
"Gotta come for this," he said.