TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Diamondbacks are making their first postseason appearance since 2002 as the National League Division Series kicks off this week, and the fans are ready to cheer their team on to victory. About 5,000 fans came to show their support for the Diamondbacks at Rally Monday, a kick-off pep rally held at Tempe Marketplace on Monday evening. The D-backs' event was part of Major League Baseball's eight-city Rally Monday celebration for each of the postseason teams. Fans crowded in to get a glimpse of D-backs outfielder Eric Byrnes, second baseman Orlando Hudson and D-backs manager Bob Melvin, along with former D-backs Jay Bell and Matt Williams at the outdoor mall's District Stage.
The slogan on the D-backs fans' signs and T-shirts quickly summed up their thoughts on the upcoming NLDS against the Cubs: "Anybody, anytime." Fans chanted "Beat the Cubs!" and "Go D-backs!" throughout the pep rally. When Melvin appeared, they yelled "Manager of the Year!" Melvin and the players were grateful for the fans' support. "I cannot believe how many people are here. I just want to thank you guys so much for everything," Byrnes said. "This [team] is a young, great group. We go out there and we play our hearts out." Hudson showed his appreciation, as well. "Thank you fans, thank you for all the support," said Hudson. "We all stuck together. ... It's been a great year so far." Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano also took part in the festivities. She was introduced to the fans by D-backs broadcasters and rally hosts Daron Sutton and Mark Grace, and she then presented a proclamation declaring this week "Arizona Diamondbacks Week" throughout Arizona, much to the delight of the cheering fans. Napolitano was happy to help celebrate the National League West champions' success. In addition to earning the division title, the D-backs also had the best record in the National League this season. Local band EastonAshe performed on stage at the event, and in-game hosts Vanessa and Mike, the Rally-backs entertainment crew and Baxter, the team's mascot, also kept the excitement going at the pep rally. The first 2,500 fans to arrive at the free event received a 2007 postseason rally towel to cheer on the D-backs with later this week as they face the Cubs. The D-backs will kick off the best-of-five NLDS against the Cubs with Games 1 and 2 on Wednesday and Thursday at Chase Field. Game 3 will be at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Saturday, and if necessary, Game 4 would be at Wrigley on Sunday and Game 5 would be at Chase Field on Tuesday. Fans had a chance to show their spirit by making signs at a table that was set up near the entrance to the plaza where the rally was held. During the event, fans held up their signs and cheered as the television cameras swept across the crowd. Local station KTVK-TV (Channel 3) covered the event with a live half-hour show, and 3TV's Tara Hitchcock and Ross Shimabuku helped emcee the event. Fans attending the Rally Monday celebration had a chance to win various raffle prizes including autographed bats, baseballs, bases, jerseys and tickets to the NLDS home games. Tickets also are available for purchase online at dbacks.com. D-backs fans John and Stephanie Luce brought their four children -- Jordan, 10, Tyler, 8, Sarai, 4, and Johnathan, 2, out to the kick-off celebration. The Luces moved to Phoenix from Nebraska in 2004, so this is their first time seeing the D-backs make it to the postseason. They were excited to have their children participate in the event. "They've never been to anything like this before. This doesn't happen in Omaha, Nebraska," said John Luce. "We've got to go to this. "I think [the D-backs have] got a real good chance," he said. "They came out strong this year. ... They had a lot of morale boost, kind of got them going." The Luces said they feel the D-backs will go all the way this year. "They're a stong team, they're going to pull it through," said Stephanie Luce. Matt Brazill, 23, moved from Syracuse, N.Y., to Phoenix in July and said he's rooting for the D-backs. "They're a young team, they're fun to watch," said Brazill. "We'll see what happens. It's wide open in the National League this year. I say they've got as good a chance as anyone. "It's amazing to see how well they've done this year. I've been pleasantly surprised."
Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.