PHOENIX -- It was only a year ago that Torey Lovullo left the Red Sox to join the D-backs as manager. It was his first such assignment on a big league level. And his father, Sam, then 88, couldn't have been prouder.
As a fate would have it, Lovullo's dad, a renowned Hollywood television producer, died this past January because of heart issues. He missed his son converting the previously woebegone 93-loss D-backs into a 93-game winner that made the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
On Tuesday, the Baseball Writers' Association of America bestowed on Lovullo the honor of the National League Manager of the Year Award for that effort. Lovullo overwhelmingly beat fellow NL West managers Dave Roberts of the Dodgers and Bud Black of the Rockies. Lovullo received 18 of the 30 first-place votes.
NL Manager of the Year voting
Torey Lovullo, ARI
Dave Roberts, LAD
Bud Black, COL
Craig Counsell, MIL
Dusty Baker, WSH
Joe Maddon, CHC
His father, to no one's surprise, is still near and dear to his heart.
"It's a sad thing that he's not here right now to see this or watch this type of year unfold," Lovullo said Tuesday at Chase Field. "There are times when I miss calling him or just getting a chance to say, 'I love you.' Those moments hurt. But I know that he knows that. I know that he's watching me right now. He's very proud of me. I take great comfort in knowing that."
It's no small irony that Lovullo and Roberts followed very much the same path this season. Roberts' father died during Spring Training after a bout with multiple myeloma. The two managers then rode a wave of success into the postseason. The D-backs were swept by the Dodgers in the NL Division Series. And the Dodgers lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Astros.
Lovullo's father was executive producer of "Hee Haw," a TV variety show that featured country music and had a network run from 1969-71 prior to 21 years in syndication. He was an immense presence in his son's life, and because of the death, it was a season of much dichotomy.
"The year has been a very, very good and awkward one at times," Lovullo said. "And very fulfilling and rewarding in others."
Robert's father, Waymon, spent 30 years in the Marines. He was based in Okinawa, Japan, where he met his wife, Eiko. The Dodgers manager was born there in 1972. He's just finished his second season in that job after being named 2016 NL Manager of the Year as a rookie.
After the Dodgers came up short in the World Series, Roberts admitted that he was still dealing with the grief of losing his dad.
"I think, yeah, losing my father early and still kind of having dealt with that, I'm sure I'll take some time to go through that," Roberts said in the immediate wake of the loss. "But when you're in the middle of a season, it's really hard. I guess, you compartmentalize it, but it's definitely in my heart, for sure."
The attachment to Roberts for Lovullo is a long one. Both are UCLA alumni and have a connection to each other through the Los Angeles-based university.
"I've known Dave because of that association for 20-plus years," Lovullo said. "We've maintained a friendship, not that personal, but close enough that's it more than just acquaintance."
Lovullo played for Black when the latter was a Minor League pitching coach during the 1990s in the Indians organization. Roberts was a coach under Black when the former left-handed pitcher managed the Padres. Baseball is a constant cycle of relationships that are rekindled over and over again.
Like Lovullo, Black was in his first season with the Rockies and led them to a 12-game turnaround and a spot in the NL Wild Card Game, where they lost to the D-backs.
In a light moment before the results of the BBWAA voting was announced, the three men were interviewed on MLB Network. Roberts and Black, who live within miles of each other in San Diego, were together in Roberts' home. Lovullo was on the field at Chase, where he good-naturedly took exception to being precluded from those arrangements.
"Yeah, I was really bummed about that, I can't believe that," Lovullo said. "That's the first thing I told them when we were live on MLB. I pulled out my phone and pretended to look for where the text was because I didn't get that memo. But they are two good guys."
Roberts said Lovullo had an open invitation to join them.
"I was asked if I would have gone," Lovullo said. "I don't know. It would have taken a plane trip and some convincing of the [D-backs] public relations department. They wanted me here pretty bad. My wife and I thought about doing this at our house. Can you imagine that? Everyone could have been at our house. We would have invited you guys to a big Italian dinner."