"Absolutely, that competition got us ready for this," said Arizona manager Bob Melvin. "We had a tough game every day. The depth in this division was pretty phenomenal.""We always felt that as long as there was an opportunity, we just had to stay focused on our next game," said Clint Hurdle, the Rockies' manager. "We don't try to get too smart. We don't try to figure out too many things." These teams are also virtually intimate with each other, that Spring Training schedule and 18 ensuing regular-season games teaching one team everything about the other. "If you haven't yet found a hole in someone's swing, you aren't going to find it," said Tony Clark, Arizona's veteran first baseman. "They're not going to start positioning themselves on defense differently." Added Jackson, "We know everything about them. When I go up to hit, I know what I'm going to get. It's just a matter of whether I'm going to hit it or not. "I guarantee you, next March, there'll be some bragging rights for one of these. We know all these guys. It's gonna be a fun series." For fans who favor gung-ho exuberance over jaded veterans, it will most certainly be all that. This NLCS is also an escape from the neo way of building winners and a throwback to simpler times -- developing, rather than signing, talent. "As a fan, when I was growing up, I'd enjoy something like this," said Arizona's Jeff Salazar. "Because I appreciate the game of baseball. This shows that you can save money and be successful at the same time. It doesn't have to come down to big-market-or-not. "Hopefully, it can also be a lesson to kids thinking of getting into baseball. We've both shown that if you want to make it, you've got to have everyone working in the same direction. We aren't a bunch of players pieced together. We learned together, so it didn't take us long to adjust to playing with each other here, because we've been together for a long time." It is the same with the Rockies, who began long ago forming the bonds that held up down their grueling stretch. "We didn't wilt," said outfielder Jeff Baker, "because everyone does his share. If someone can't pick you up on a particular day, someone else will. That's the strength of this club. The guys on this team believe in each other." Watch, marvel and you, too, will believe.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.