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New old guys aim for maturity in D-backs clubhouse
Question of the Day
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. (AP) - The newest Arizona Diamondbacks are pretty old by baseball standards, some of them borderline ancient.
They have been brought to the desert to add some much-needed maturity and character to a clubhouse that could be described as bland at best, uncaring at worst.
Any hint of acceptance of losing gnaws at manager Kirk Gibson worse than anything, and the spring training roster has been loaded with allies whose careers have been long, not just because of talent, but because of an attitude.
"Our job is to come here and try to teach the young guy that this is no joke, this is serious," third baseman Melvin Mora said after Monday's workouts.
Two weeks past his 39th birthday, Mora is one of the elders on a long list of 30-somethings added to the team by new general manager Kevin Towers.
Others either on the 40-man roster or non-roster invitees include Henry Blanco (39), Geoff Blum (37), Russell Branyan (35), Cody Ransom (35), J.J. Putz (34 on Tuesday), Willie Bloomquist (33) and Xavier Nady (32). Also, Mike Hampton (38) re-signed a minor-league contract with Arizona.
When pitchers and catchers reported to the Diamondbacks' fancy new spring training facility a week ago, Towers explained why he brought in so many.
"They play the game the right way and are not afraid to go out and police the clubhouse," Towers said. "It shouldn't be up to a major league coaching staff all the time to take care of things when there may be issues or somebody might not be following the program."
Bloomquist said he was told "We need to change the attitude around here a little bit."
"It's kind of been very, very talented individuals _ but I won't' say complacent _ but just kind of what happens, happens, and that's not tolerated," Bloomquist said. "You expect to win every day and you expect to get better every day. The game doesn't owe you anything, you owe the game."
Bloomquist said leadership doesn't have to be vocal to be effective.
"Just if you go about your business and do things the right way, and you have those sort of guys, it trickles down to everybody else," he said, "just that's the way that's expected and that's how you play the game. I think as an older guy you have to take pride in doing that, and teaching some of the younger guys that you respect the game or it's not going to respect you back."
After all, there's a reason these players have stayed around for so long.
"It's not by chance," Bloomquist said. "In this game you can get weeded out real quick if you're not doing things right."
Gibson said "so far, so good."
"They've got great attitudes. They work hard. they go about their business," he said. "It's contagious. That's what we were hoping for."
Gibson said the older players understand it's a privilege to wear a major league uniform.
"When you get older like that, maybe you can see your time coming to an end, so you do really appreciate it more," he said. "They're just like me and you guys know how I feel about that. They're giving the same message. The players hear it from me _ I said it again today in our meeting _ and they (the veterans) are reinforcing that."
Ian Kennedy, a 26-year-old right-hander, appreciates the importance of adding such experience.
"With the Yankees we had that," he said. "You need those good leaders. I felt like we were missing that aspect last year. You have a good, young mix, too. A successful team has that mix."
Shortstop Stephen Drew, quiet by nature, also likes the changes around him after two straight last-place finishes in the NL West.
"It's a whole different feel, a good vibe," he said, "and I think it's' going to be a good season."
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