Bob Melvin was in the thick of a playoff run during his time on the Arizona Diamondbacks' coaching staff when the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, occurred.
“Just awestruck,” Melvin told NBC Sports California on Friday. “I mean, a surreal experience where you’re hoping that you wake up from a bad dream. We were in the midst of a pennant race at that point in time and you know, you completely forgot about baseball and were just riveted to what was going on. And you know, just such a surreal scene that you’ll never forget.”
Games across the league were postponed after the attacks, and the U.S. forever was shaken. Playing baseball felt like the last thing they should do, but the journey toward the postseason didn’t stop, and the D-backs found themselves playing in the World Series against the New York Yankees in October.
Melvin said the D-backs went and visited Ground Zero during the series in New York, beneath the Twin Towers that had been turned into rubble.
Melvin described it in one word: Eerie.
“There was still smoke, and there was just still so many people there trying to get that all straightened out,” Melvin said. “And again, just your admiration for those people that were working there, the looks on their faces, just something you’ll never forget. For us to be there and the looks on their faces seeing us there, gave them a little bit of a break from what they were doing.”
Melvin knew baseball was more important than ever when the time came to play.
“It was more important because we were giving the people of New York at the time -- and that’s all you felt because we were playing in Yankee Stadium -- some entertainment, a break from what was the most awful experience you could possibly have,” Melvin said.
Melvin said when President George W. Bush came out to throw the ceremonial first pitch in Game 3, it was an emotional experience.
“That was absolutely incredible,” Melvin said. “He walked out there as the Commander in Chief, stood on that mound and threw a strike and it was exhilarating.”
The D-backs went head-to-head against the New York Yankees for seven games. And while they had to play a game, at the end of the day, when they were crowned champions, Melvin understood the bigger picture.
“You knew these games meant more than any games you ever felt before, certainly because it was the World Series, but even more so,” Melvin said.
Even when it was the Yankees who were scoring, Melvin appreciated the way New York fans lit up.
“We didn’t want to lose those games, but what it meant to the people of New York, it resonated with you.”