D-backs rookies get high praise for cheer routine

PHOENIX -- With a horde of veterans and coaches waiting eagerly, the nine D-backs spring rookies left the clubhouse at Salt River Fields on Saturday morning.

They weren't the only ones entering the practice facilities wearing red, though. Flanking them on either side as they lined up for a routine was the Chaparral High School cheerleading squad.

As a fun bit of Spring Training hazing, the D-backs' rookies were sent to Chaparral for two hours on Thursday to learn a few cheers. They performed for the rest of the club and a few onlookers Saturday morning -- and drew high praise.

"They were so into it," said Chaparral High coach Shelley Singer. "They were willing to learn everything. Some of them were like, 'Hey, slow down, stop, I want to learn.'"

It must be that perfectionist mentality required to play baseball at the highest level.

The D-backs' cheer squad was made up of David Holmberg, Nick Ahmed, Ed Easley, Tuffy Gosewisch, Alfredo Marte, Chase Anderson, Chris Owings, Matt Davidson, first-year assistant trainer Ryan DiPanfilo and about 20 varsity cheerleaders.

"I thought they would be a lot more embarrassed than they were," Singer's daughter Madison, a member of the squad, said. "They actually were super outgoing about it, and were having fun with us and joking around. I would have never expected them to be so into dance and cheer."

Closer J.J. Putz hatched the idea, and right-hander Charles Brewer placed the call to his alma mater. Eventually Putz got in contact with Singer, who told the girls they'd have a surprise waiting for them at practice on Thursday.

"I thought maybe it would be a choreographer for a new routine or the news," Madison said. "But when they all walked in we had no idea what was going to happen."

The girls taught the rookies two routines: Swing It Up -- a Chaparral classic -- and Gangnam Style -- during which the players each did their own dance front and center in the group.

"At first it was like, 'I can't do this.' But after we all kind of loosened up a little bit, it was actually kind of fun," Anderson said. "With all the guys, it kind of built a little team chemistry and helped us get out of our comfort zones."

Getting out of their comfort zones has been a theme this spring for manager Kirk Gibson, who wants his players to challenge their self-perceived limits.

The girls seemed most impressed with Owings, even though he botched the finale by falling at the final lift.

Both Anderson and Easley gave the team title to Ahmed, who started the cheers and led the group from the center.

"A few of us looked back, and he was doing the whole routine already by the time we had learned just the first two steps," Easley said of Thursday's session. "He's a natural."

Though none of the D-backs rookies impressed enough to make the squad, which took home national titles in 2009 and '10, Singer said they certainly made an impression on her girls.

"It was a blast," Singer said. "The girls were so excited, and I think it was great for both. They both kind of learned something from each other."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.