Credit Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jake Arrieta has taken his beard and his breaking balls from the North Side of Chicago to South Philadelphia. The old Miami Marlins outfield has scattered to the Bronx (Giancarlo Stanton), Milwaukee (Christian Yelich) and St. Louis (Marcell Ozuna). And if you’re sitting in the Green Monster seats at Fenway Park, look out, because a guy nicknamed Just Dingers — J.D. Martinez — has come to town.
But the most celebrated newcomer of 2018, at least for nostalgic fans over 40, can be found in the bullpens at Chase Field in Phoenix. They are EZ-Go golf carts, with an outer shell made to look like a baseball with a black Arizona Diamondbacks cap on top. Yes, the bullpen cart, that charming vestige of the 1970s, is back.
“I’ve never thought of being driven into a game, so it’s a little weird concept, but I think it’s pretty cool,” said Archie Bradley, the Diamondbacks’ ace reliever. “We have some creative minds out in the bullpen. We’re already talking about tricking this thing out — subwoofers, underglow lights. And I definitely want to drive guys in. That would be sick.”
Alas, the Diamondbacks have hired four game-day staffers to drive the cart, and so far, the only add-ons are logos for On-Trac, a shipping company based in Chandler, Ariz., that signed a six-figure sponsorship deal. Derrick Hall, the Diamondbacks’ president, said pitchers will have the choice to be driven from the bullpen or trot in, as usual.
“You know how superstitious baseball players are,” said T.J. McFarland, a Diamondbacks left-hander. “The first guy who goes out there in a cart and ends up having a really bad outing, is he going to do it again? I don’t know.”
Mike Fetters, the Arizona bullpen coach, pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1995, believed to be the last time a team used a vehicle to transport relievers. In the Brewers’ case, it was a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a sidecar for the pitcher — or, at least, the pitcher’s warm-up jacket.