Eric is Byrne-ing

Swung by the Arizona Diamondbacks camp after landing in Tucson, Ariz.,  yesterday, just in time to see the last remnants of an empty clubhouse. Empty, save for a handful of minor leaguers and one veteran.

Guess who the veteran was.

Now, again, the point of this job is to be as objective as possible, but if you like ball, it’s awfully hard not to like Eric Byrnes. The man has gone from being a fringe player early in his career to a star, both in name and contract.

Yet, from what I can see, and from what his teammates say, he still goes about his business the same way he did when he was a 24-year-old, aw-shuks-just-happy-to-be-here kid with the A’s. Now 32, he’s being projected as a middle-of-the-order hitter for a team that’s probably the favorite in the National League West.

Oh, and in the offseason he continued his budding career as a future radio star with several entertaining efforts hosting shows on KNBR and doing a program for XM Radio.

His other offseason activities: He got married (bad news ladies), and he dined with President Bush. I imagine Eric and I won’t be discussing politics, because our views toward the Prez are probably entirely different. That said, how can you not be at least a little envious of a guy who has dinner at the White House?

Anyway, in what should be down year for the local nines, Byrnes provides a rooting interest for both sides of the Bay. He grew up a Giants fan, hit for the cycle as an Athletic against that very team, and is one of the better guys the Bay Area has produced. I was around him for three years on the A’s beat and have stayed in touch periodically since his departure, and I’ve never seen (or heard about) him “big-league” anybody. And, by the way, it’s hard not to root for a guy who drives what’s dubbed a Shaggin’ Wagon.”

Shame the Giants couldn’t get him, but the D’backs’ pre-emptive strike in August was a smart one. He’s as important a figure on this team as any other. Not a bad rise for someone who started his career as an afterthought.