D-backs hoping that past legends will bring future titles

D-backs hoping that past legends will bring future titles

The last thing a visitor sees before entering the D-backs' Spring Training clubhouse is a large plaque commemorating the team's 2001 World Series win.

Looking at the pictures from that postseason, it seems ages ago. The purple-and-teal-dressed champions look foreign in the facility now draped in Sedona Red and black. Where Steve Finley and Jay Bell once roamed at Bank One Ballpark, Cody Ross and Aaron Hill now do at Chase Field. And the walls on which the aforementioned plaque is hanging didn't even exist. The team moved into their gleaming Spring Training palace at Scottsdale's Salt River Fields in 2011 after spending their first 13 springs in Tucson.

A lot has changed since that championship season 12 years ago, but several of the central characters from the World Series squad have returned to the organization, bridging past, present and future.

Left fielder and World Series hero Luis Gonzalez is now a special assistant to the president and CEO; third baseman Matt Williams is now the third-base coach; first baseman Mark Grace serves as a special instructor; and Glenn Sherlock never left, continuing in his role as bullpen coach, a job he's held since the team's inaugural season, in 1998.

Two more cogs from that World Series machine have returned to the desert this season: Bob Brenly and Rod Barajas. Brenly joins Steve Berthiaume on the new TV broadcast team, and Barajas is battling for the same role he had in 2001, backup catcher.

These six men have their fingerprints all over the World Series. Gonzalez rapped the game-winning hit to bring down the Yankees in Game 7. The one who'd led off that inning with a hit? Grace. Williams hit a go-ahead three-run homer to give the D-backs a 4-1 win in Game 2. Barajas put a ball into the Yankee Stadium seats for a solo home run in Game 5's extra-inning loss. Brenly and Sherlock were two of the strategists piecing together a lineup and rotation that eventually brought the World Series to the Valley of the Sun. The dream of the ring in 2001 started on the very first day of Cactus League play that year.

"Right from day one, I told those guys to start thinking about winning a World Series -- 'Take a look around, those guys are going to be wearing World Series rings this time next year,'" Brenly recalled.  "Once I got through the first day, really, the rest of it felt very natural, very comfortable, and that speaks to the veteran leadership we had on that team and the great players we had on that team."

Although most of the World Series returnees have new roles with the team, Barajas is the only one who is still playing, trying to fit right back into the same slot he occupied then. In fact, Barajas is one of only two players from the World Series roster still active. (Miguel Batista is with his ninth team, the Rockies, this spring.)

"I've definitely played with more coaches than players here," Barajas said with a laugh. "It's great, though. They know me and treat me like a teammate."

Williams has experienced many variations of Brenly. The two were teammates in San Francisco from  1987 to 1989, Williams was managed by Brenly in Arizona from 2001 to 2003, and now they are friends and fellow D-backs employees. 

Now that Williams is coaching, he draws from some of the things he learned from his former skipper.

"You take something from everybody who was your manager in your career, because it's important to try to pull from everybody to gain that experience," Williams said. "B.B. had a veteran team that knew what to do. His genius was that he let us play and didn't try to overdo it."

Some of these players from 2001 see similarities in the current roster.

"When [the 2001 team] got on the field, it was all business," Gonzalez said. "These [current] guys, they like to have their fun in the locker room, but they're very blue-collar-ish. I like the group of guys they've brought in to mix in. These guys know how to play the game."

And fans are hopeful that bringing in legends from the past can add a few plaques outside the clubhouse in the future.

Jordan Hamm is a contributor to MLB.com. Jourdan Rodrigue contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.