MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

For Lovullo, an 'emotional' first win

For Lovullo, an 'emotional' first win

PHOENIX -- The stunning Opening Day win on Sunday for new D-backs manager Torey Lovullo over the Giants was special on so many levels.

It was Lovullo's first as a full-time manager after six years working as the bench coach in Boston and Toronto under John Farrell. The 6-5 victory at a jam-packed Chase Field was the first walk-off Opening Day win in D-backs history, coming on a Chris Owings single.

But most importantly, it was the first since Lovullo's father, Sam, passed away this past January.

"My dad was very special to me," Lovullo understated after his club came from behind twice to best the Giants after Madison Bumgarner opened the game with five perfect innings.

Must C: D-backs stun Giants

Lovullo is from Los Angeles and lives in Westlake Village, Calif., a beatific hamlet built around a manmade lake as far west as one can travel in the San Fernando Valley. And the Lovullo clan came to the desert this weekend en masse -- 65 of them, including his mom, Grace, wife, Kristen, and youngest of three sons, Connor.

They rode from the hotel to the ballpark together in what Lovullo called "a party bus." And when he returned home after the thrilling game, he said his wife was staging another party for all of them.

His dad was there in spirit.

"It was emotional, I'm not going to lie," Lovullo said. "I miss my dad, but my family's here. And they loved me and supported me today and yesterday in a very intimate way. I felt everybody's presence. And it couldn't have been scripted any better for me than to have the ups and downs of the moment finish on such an incredibly high note.

"I don't know if I'm going to come down for the rest of the day. I know my wife has put together a big party for the group. I'm going to walk in there and embrace everybody and let the celebration begin."

Sam Lovullo was special. He co-created the hit television series "Hee Haw." And when he passed at 88 on Jan. 6, the accolades and eulogies were abundant. The variety show was a spin-off of "The Jonathan Winters Show." Winters was a top comedian of that era who influenced the late Robin Williams and Billy Crystal, just to name a few. The elder Lovullo first worked for Winters. "Hee Haw" lasted two years on CBS before it had a 21-year run in syndication. Sam was executive producer for all of it except the last five seasons.

His son, Torey, is one of four siblings in the family. While Sam played his part in television history, Torey was working his way through baseball as a utility Major League player. He had a bit part playing in eight seasons and had been in baseball for 30 years as a player, Minor League manager and big league coach before the D-backs hired him this past Nov. 4.

Kristen Lovullo on Opening Day

Lovullo's only experience managing in the Majors was a 48-game stint at the end of the 2015 season, sitting in with the Red Sox while Farrell battled a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The D-backs have had eight managers in their short history, but Lovullo now makes four of them since Bob Melvin was fired early in the 2009 season. For various reasons, A.J. Hinch, Kurt Gibson and Chip Hale didn't last in Arizona, but one senses that Lovullo has a real chance.

Lovullo is charming and obviously cares about other people. At the end of his interim stint in Boston, there were managerial openings around baseball and the well-regarded Lovullo was constantly mentioned. Instead, he chose to remain with the Red Sox to support Farrell, a close friend.

Farrell underwent six months worth of chemo in six weeks and returned healthy to manage the Red Sox in 2016. At the end of last season, Lovullo was comfortable leaving.

It's no small irony that when pitchers and catchers reported this past February on his first day managing the D-backs, the club announced that bench coach Ron Gardenhire had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The veteran baseball man is leaving the club shortly for surgery.

Like he did for Farrell, Lovullo stood firmly behind Gardenhire.

"This does hit home a little bit because of what I went through with John," Lovullo said that day. "But right now, we are fighting this fight with Ron."

That was the foundation and prior to the game, Lovullo met with his team. He said it was an emotional meeting as part of an emotional day "because of my family, my father and how much I care about those guys in that clubhouse."

The players have warmed to Lovullo's approach and are obviously playing hard for him, coming back Sunday from a 3-0 deficit when A.J. Pollock homered to tie the score in the sixth. And doing it again with two out and no one on in the ninth against new Giants closer Mark Melancon.

Owings, who has had his own injury and displacement issues playing under Gibson and Hale, is another feel-good story, winning the game for Lovullo in the ninth.

"I really like the way he handled Spring Training, and his communication with me has been great so far," Ownings said about playing here for his third manager. "It's awesome for him to win his first game like this. He had a meeting with us before the game and told us that all the hard work we did in Spring Training is going to pay off during the season. I look forward to the next 161 games and hopefully more after that."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.