Melvin remembers trip to Ground Zero

Melvin recalls trip to Ground Zero

PHOENIX -- It's often said that playing in the World Series is unlike any other experience a baseball player will ever have.

But smack dab in the middle of the Diamondbacks' lone trip to the Fall Classic -- the day before Arizona was scheduled to face New York at Yankees Stadium in Game 3 of the 2001 World Series -- it was time spent away from the ballpark, in lower Manhattan, that stands out to current D-Backs manager Bob Melvin as an experience unlike anything he's ever known.

Melvin -- then the bench coach for former Arizona manager Bob Brenly -- visited Ground Zero in New York's financial district with the rest of the team, just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"That was surreal," Melvin said of the Oct. 29, 2001, visit to the former World Trade Center site. "We got in late, didn't have much sleep, we went over there. You could never, ever even begin to expect to see what you saw when you showed up. I was watching CNN, but when you're actually there, I couldn't even put it into words. It was an experience I'll never forget."

To remember the tragedy, the club held a tribute prior to Monday's game against the Nationals to honor those who lost their lives five years ago. There was an expanded Color Guard presentation comprised of the greater Phoenix Police and Fire Departments, an extended moment of silence and remembrance video, which aired on the big screen.

Instead of throwing out the first pitch, Melvin and Nationals manager Frank Robinson walked together to the mound and placed the ball on the rubber.

The band Valor sang the National Anthem in addition to "God Bless America" in the seventh inning.

"Yet [it was] uplifting to see the group there, the firefighters and the police and everybody that was there, just to stabilize that situation, which had a chance to be out of control," Melvin said. "To see the people of New York pull together in the fashion they did, I'll never forget that. It gives me goose bumps."

Play resumed on Sept. 17 after a week hiatus, and baseball served as a distraction from the tragedy which engulfed the nation.

"It's something that ended up being entertainment and a release for people to not think about what had transpired in New York," Melvin said. "We were proud to be a part of that, albeit baseball was very insignificant with what transpired."

When the attacks occurred, Arizona was scheduled to open a three-game series against Colorado. When the national pastime started up again, the D-Backs went 11-8 through the rest of September and captured the National League West title by a pair of games. The D-Backs went on to defeat the Yankees -- four games to three -- in what was one of the most thrilling World Series in baseball history. Each championship ring bears the inscription "9/11/01 Never Forget."

Lindsey Frazier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.