BEST COOL NEW ATHLETE IN TOWN Phoenix 2006 - Eric Byrnes
Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Eric Byrnes is crazy. That's the first thing any knowledgeable baseball fan or professional ballplayer will tell you. He makes crazy plays in the outfield, he's crazy on the base paths, he has a crazy sense of humor. He just follows his own wacky muse. After all, Byrnsey played for the Oakland Athletics, and the antics of that team are infamous. How could he not be crazy, coming from the A's? Actually, Byrnes paled in comparison to the fruitcake behavior of left-handed pitcher Barry Zito, but on the Diamondbacks (a team of dullards, Luis Gonzalez's penchant as a playa notwithstanding), Byrnes stands out. He's a breath of fresh air. First of all, he's one of the best interviews in baseball; he's always game to dissect his team and teammates on The Best Damn Sports Show, Period. Second, he's a hunk, which is why his face adorns those D-Backs billboards around town, along with fellow good-looking members of the Rainbow Coalition, catcher Johnny Estrada and second baseman Orlando Hudson. Third, he's a hell of a base-stealer, which is something the team had been lacking with Craig Counsell on the disabled list. He entered this season with 40 steals in 46 attempts as a major leaguer. Last we heard, he had stolen 18 bases in 19 attempts, a league-leading percentage. His .280 batting average ain't too shabby, but his all-around Johnny Hustle flair is what makes him special. He's got that swagger that the Diamondbacks so desperately need to attract fans, from the way he runs, to the way he stands in the batter's box, to the way he unbuttons those top three buttons on his uniform jersey. We liked him better when he wasn't playing center field, because then he was always jumping into the stands for foul balls (the wall's way too high for that in center at Chase Field), but he still exudes the cool confidence that makes us want to believe that our boys of summer might possibly contend. Someday, you think?