Members of the Arizona Diamondbacks bombard shortstop Chris Owings following his game-winning single against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field on Sunday, April 2, 2017, in Phoenix. (Photo by Tyler Drake/ Cronkite News)


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For a fan and a manager, long roads end in thrilling Diamondbacks opener

4/5/17

Annaliese Leon
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Tim Nally took the long road to Chase Field for the Diamondbacks opener Sunday.
Nally attended his first Opening Day since he became a Diamondbacks fan in 2009. He became a fan that season because the club moved its top farm club, its Triple-A affiliate, from Tucson to Reno.

“It’s the beginning of a real sport season, an everyday thing, not just once a week,” Nally said at the sold-out ballpark after the 12-hour drive from Reno. “I enjoy the game of baseball, I’ve been a baseball fan for a very long time. When you walk into a stadium, no matter where you’re at, the grass is always greener and the sky is always bluer.”

Torey Lovullo also took the long road to Chase Field for Sunday’s opener.

In his previous 30 years in pro ball, Lovullo had played for seven big-league teams and had played in Japan. Then he had been a manager in the minors and a coach in the majors.

Now, as he blew his bubble gum and watched from the Diamondbacks dugout, Lovullo experienced his first regular-season game as a big-league manager.

The day had a poignant layer of emotion for Lovullo, 51. His father died at 88 in January.

“It was emotional, not going to lie, I miss my dad,” Lovullo said afterward, “but my family is here, and they loved me and supported me today. I felt everybody’s presence.”

With Chase Field’s roof open and sunlight pouring in, Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner tried to ruin the day for the home team. Bumgarner became the first big-league pitcher ever to hit two homers in a season opener. He exited in the eighth inning in line for the win.

But then, culminating a late-inning series of rallies by both teams, the Diamondbacks scored twice with two out in the ninth to win, 6-5. Shortstop Chris Owings drove in the winning run with a single off the Giants prize new reliever, Mark Melancon.

“Man, it was awesome today,” Owings said. “Opening Day, you go out there, blue sky, and I feel like that was the best weather we’ve played in all spring training. I really enjoy lining up and seeing the jets fly over, it just gets you going. You can’t beat Opening Day, you really can’t.”

Most in the throng of 49,016 went home happy, thanks to Owings. But not Stacie Bouschie. She is a long-time Giants fan who came to the game covered from head to toe in black and orange, the team’s colors. She said that beginning with 1977, she’d been to every Giants home opener but two: first at frigid Candlestick Park, and since 2000 at the Giants’ modern downtown waterfront palace, AT&T Park.

“This is my first opening day here, though,” she said.

The same was true for Lovullo. In the interview room afterward, he reflected on his first victory as a manager.

“It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said.

Lovullo’s late father, Sam Lovullo, was the producer and co-creator of the TV show “Hee Haw.”

And so perhaps that’s why when the Diamondbacks rallied in the ninth, Lovullo knew a Hollywood ending when he saw one.

“I’m going to remember the entire day, from start to finish, more specifically the finish,” he said. “I don’t think that it could’ve been scripted any better.”