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First D-backs battery reflects on time with club

Benes, Fabregas recall Arizona's inaugural Opening Day
MLB.com

PHOENIX -- Andy Benes doesn't remember a ton about March 31, 1998, only that he was stressed out. The start time for the very first game in Arizona Diamondbacks history kept getting pushed back to account for the day's festivities. Benes just wanted to take the mound and rid himself of the pressure surrounding the first pitch.

"I was just trying to get it close where it wasn't going to hit the backstop," said Benes on Friday at Chase Field.

PHOENIX -- Andy Benes doesn't remember a ton about March 31, 1998, only that he was stressed out. The start time for the very first game in Arizona Diamondbacks history kept getting pushed back to account for the day's festivities. Benes just wanted to take the mound and rid himself of the pressure surrounding the first pitch.

"I was just trying to get it close where it wasn't going to hit the backstop," said Benes on Friday at Chase Field.

As he sat next to Benes in the interview room, Jorge Fabregas helped recall the day. He was the starting catcher who caught the pitch and therefore allowed Benes to breathe a sigh of relief. Fabregas then cleanly handed the ball to the ball boy without bouncing it, which were the specific instructions he was given to ensure the ball wouldn't be scuffed up.

The excitement wasn't enough to propel the D-backs to an Opening Day win, as they lost to the Colorado Rockies, 9-2. Benes gave up five earned runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings, picking up a loss. Fabregas went 0-for-2 at the plate, drawing two walks.

Saturday's series finale against the Rockies marks exactly 20 years since the first game in D-backs history, and to help celebrate, Benes will throw out the first pitch to Fabregas.

They both have fond memories of their time with the club.

They reminisced on then-manager Buck Showalter's rule that players needed to show the team's "A" logo on their socks at all times. According to Benes, Showalter -- now the Orioles' skipper -- eventually loosened up on that after Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson refused to listen.

Before the 1998 season even started, the players toured Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field) prior to its completion and were in awe.

"I just remember walking inside and it was like, 'This is one of the seven wonders of the world,'" Fabregas said on Friday. "'This is humungous, it's amazing. We're going to play baseball in this place?'"

That first year didn't go so well, as the D-backs went 65-97. That said, they partied in the clubhouse after the crucial 63rd win, which meant the team wouldn't have a chance to lose 100 games.

"I don't think we popped champagne, but it was close," Benes said.

Benes and Fabregas on Saturday will recreate a historic moment. Two decades ago, Benes was too focused on not messing up the first pitch to take in his surroundings, but luckily he has a picture that reminds him of that special scene.

"It's one of my favorite pictures that I have, is the picture from up top [of the stadium] with all the [flashes] going," Benes said. "Just to be a part of history is really cool, it only happens once."

Justin Toscano is a contributor to MLB.com.

Arizona Diamondbacks