By: Brian Frank
Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo starred for the Bisons as a player in 1995, 1997, and 1998, and managed the Herd from 2006 to 2008. I spoke with him about his time with the Bisons in a previous Conversations with the Herd that can be read by clicking here.
Lovullo recently caught up with The Herd Chronicles during the Diamondbacks three-game series at Rogers Centre. It was the first time the D-Backs had played in Toronto in over four years.
“It brings back great memories,” Lovullo said, while looking out at the field at Rogers Centre, where he was the Blue Jays first-base coach in 2011 and 2012. “I loved my time here in Toronto. I’ll never forget how great this organization was to me. I loved living in the city. We lived right across the street (from Rogers Centre) and I was a part of the fabric of this community. It’s a pretty special place and I’ll never forget my time here.”
Lovullo has been with the D-Backs since 2017. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Lovullo has the Diamondbacks in the thick of the National League West playoff race. The D-Backs are currently two and a half games behind the division leading Dodgers in the N.L. West and tied for the second N.L. wild card spot.
“We deserve it first of all,” Lovullo said of the team’s success this season. “We’ve worked hard to put ourselves in this position. We’ve got a very young talented core of players. We’re excited to come to the ballpark every day and be right in the middle of an exciting race in the N.L. West. It’s a long journey and we’re in the middle of it. We’ve got a ways to go. But I feel like this has been a really complete cycle of where we were a couple years ago and fast forward to where we are today. We have a lot of good things to look forward to.”
The N.L. West is one of the toughest divisions in baseball, home to high payroll teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants.
“We embrace it,” he said of competing in the N.L. West. “We know the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants have a payroll more than ours. We look at it as a great challenge. We’ve got to win the margins, win the little inch on the baseball field, and do things to be a complete team in order to compete with those guys. The first thing we end up talking about is we can’t have a woe is me attitude. We’ve got to go out and embrace the challenges that are before us and be a complete team.”
A pair of former Bisons have been key pieces to the Diamondbacks current success – outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and catcher Gabriel Moreno, both of who were acquired in an offseason trade with the Blue Jays for outfielder Dalton Varsho.
Gurriel, who played in 68 career games with the Herd, is currently slashing .270/.323/.492 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs. He was selected to the N.L. All-Star team and nearly hit a mammoth home run in the mid-summer classic, before replay review determined it was foul.
“First of all, he’s an unbelievable human being,” Lovullo said of Gurriel. “When he walked into our clubhouse, he brought some charisma, some instant energy. I can’t say enough about his baseball ability. He’s able to command the strike zone, drive pitches, have quality at-bats, and impact the baseball. There’s a lot to be said for his ability to help us win baseball games.”
Lovullo looks on from the Diamondbacks dugout in a game earlier this season. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Moreno, who slashed .315/.386/.420 for the Bisons last season while also displaying his incredible arm behind the plate, is currently slashing .270/.314/.358 for the D-Backs. He leads the majors in throwing out potential base stealers, having nabbed 16 of 33 runners attempting to steal (48%).
“Gabby has continued to grow and learn about our system – and we ask a lot of our catchers,” Lovullo said. “He has been a god send for us because our starting catcher (Carson Kelly) was injured at the end of spring training and Gabby stepped in and assumed the lion’s share of innings. Without him, we would not be in the position we are in right now. He’s obviously a great talent. He can drive the baseball out of any part of the ballpark. You can’t really run on him. His catch and release is as good as I’ve ever seen. He just continues to grow, learn, and develop. He’s going to be a very good catcher here for a long time.”
Lovullo is looking forward to the second half of the season and is optimistic about the Diamondbacks chances.
“We play as a team every single night,” he said. “We win inches all over the baseball field. We do things in a very uncommon way and we want to be as complete a baseball team as possible. We went from hoping we were going to win baseball games in the past couple of years to believing we can go out there and do it every single night.”
Lovullo has won 463 games at the helm of the Diamondbacks. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Lovullo has been at the helm of the D-Backs since 2017 and was N.L. Manager of the Year in his first season with the club. Last season, he became the winningest manager in franchise history. He signed a contract extension this June that takes him through the 2024 season.
“I’m very grateful that the general manager (Mike Hazen) came and offered me the extension,” he said. “I feel like I’m indebted to this organization for them sticking with me and the least I could do was to turn around and say yes as quickly as possible. We have a lot that we want to accomplish here and me being able to be a part of this journey for a couple more years is something that I’m honored by.”
Even though he was last with the Bisons in 2008, he still has strong ties to the area. His wife is a Western New York native, they visit family in the area often – and they are huge fans of the Bills and Sabres.
“Last year we saw I think six Bills games,” he smiled. “We followed them to Detroit and watched them play there on Thanksgiving. We’re definitely Bills backers. We’re part of the Bills Mafia and very proud of it. I married into it. We support the Sabres as much as we do the Bills. We love everything about Buffalo sports, for sure.”