At this point, it is not difficult to see how the energy and vigor of Diamondbacks’ manager Chip Hale is transported across the baseball landscape. Ready to hit ground balls at 5 in the morning, or just communicating at nearly at a breath-taking pace, the liveliness and influence is clearly evident.
If there is one aspect of Hale’s method which gathered the attention of the movers and shakers of the game, it’s his desire and propensity to play the game the right way. In Hale’s mind, that means superb execution, and to be the most fundamentally sound team in the majors.
That was one of the main attractions for pitcher Zack Grienke to come over from the Dodgers this past winter. Sitting across from Hale in the Dodgers’ dugout last season, Greinke saw how well prepared the Diamondbacks were for each game, how structured their discipline, and how strong their execution. For Greinke, Hale’s approach to the game was one of the major selling points to switch from Dodger blue to Sedona Red. Though it was believed Greinke might stay with the Dodgers or possibility move up the coast to San Francisco, Hale’s approach became a major factor in Grienke’s signing with Arizona.
“We want to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Hale said. “Our expectation is to be the most fundamentally sound team in the game.”
Last season, that approach paid off. The Diamondbacks were among the National League leaders in team batting average, runs scored and hits. As well, they were also among the NL leaders on defense with the third best fielding percentage.
“Chip, easily, had the biggest influence on my baseball life,” said Padres’ manager Andy Green. “His passion and energy is unmatched.”
Green recalled one experience with Hale while Green was a second baseman and Hale managed Tucson in the Diamondbacks organization. Driven nearly to a limit, Hale’s search for excellence and distinction had a lasting impression.
“I remember cursing Chip for hitting ground ball after ground ball to me in Tucson, and it was like 110 degrees,” Green said. “But, he instilled a culture that was so profound that I carry this everywhere now.”
If Hale’s enthusiasm is rather intense to one, his methodical approach to another remains telling. While both were coaches with the Diamondbacks in late 2000s, Bryan Price, now the manager at Cincinnati and then the Arizona pitching coach, recalls the impact. While Hale’s knowledge is deep and his understanding of the game pronounced, it was his ability to command an aura which was captivating.
“Chip is a guy consumed by the game,” Price said. “He thinks about the game constantly, and makes every attempt to stay on top of his opponent.”
As the 2015 season progressed, teams began to take notice of Hale’s command of the Diamondbacks Way. By season’s end, Hale’s fingerprints were all over the club’s improvement by 15 games in the National League West Division standings over the previous season under Kirk Gibson.
Such advance caught the eye of general manager Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa, the club’s Chief Baseball Office. Just as spring training began, the pair picked up Hale’s option for the 2017 season. For justification, Hale’s approach to the game and requirements on his players continues to reach high standards, and command attention throughout the game.
The Diamondbacks take on the University of West Virginia at Salt River Monday afternoon at 1:10. Right-hander Yoan Lopez is scheduled to pitch for Arizona and Paul Goldschmidt is slated start at first base. There is no admission charge for this game.
On Tuesday, the Diamondbacks engage another college team, the University of Arizona, at Salt River beginning at 3:10 p.m. This is part of an annual commitment by Diamondbacks made to local colleges. Last season, Arizona opened its’ pre-season slate against Arizona State University, and next season, they will open against Grand Canyon University. The first competition against a major league club is Wednesday (1:10 p.m.) at Salt River against the Colorado Rockies.
ADD A VETERAN
Over the past weekend, the Diamondbacks signed veteran Rickie Weeks to a minor league contract. Though a second baseman most of his career and primarily with the Brewers, the Diamondbacks will look at Weeks as an outfielder, a position he played last season until released by Seattle.
“He’s coming in competing for a job,” said manager Chip Hale. “He’s in the mix for an outfield spot. We hope the competition for jobs on this team makes it hard on us.”
During a 12-year career with the Brewers and Seattle, Weeks compiled a .247 lifetime batting average in 1,179 games That comes with 150 career home runs and 439 RBIs. Granted free agency after the 2014 season, Weeks, at 33-years-old, signed with Mariners in Feb., 2105. After hitting .167 in 37 games for Seattle last season, Weeks was released by the M’s on June 21.