When the Arizona Diamondbacks returned to town to begin a four game series against the Washington Nationals, I was pretty excited. Not only had it been a week since the last Diamondbacks game I had attended, but it was the beginning of a full week of games at Chase Field.

In all my excitement I went down to the ballpark early to catch batting practice and to try and put some names with all of the new faces that were now on the roster as a result of the deals made at the trade deadline.

When I arrived, the Diamondbacks were just finishing batting practice. I surveyed the playing field trying to identify the new players. At shortstop was No. 1 Bobby Crosby, who was taking ground balls from Matt Williams, trying to get comfortable with the speed of Chase Field.

In the outfield was Dan Hudson, wearing No. 41, shagging fly balls with others on the pitching staff. I couldn’t tell for sure, but it looked like Brandon Webb was likewise in the outfield talking to members of the coaching staff and trainers.

I was starting to feel comfortable with the new team roster, confident I could identify them by throwing style or batting stance. The practice ended and the Diamondbacks ran off the field towards the home clubhouse replaced by the visiting Washington Nationals.

I turned to leave when a familiar face caught my eye. Running laps in the outfield was none other than No. 43 Miguel Batista who once wore the purple and teal of the Arizona Diamondbacks before leaving a the end of the 2006 season.

As I turned, there was No. 45 of the Nationals playing catch with a teammate. I did a double take to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me. It was none other than former Diamondback left-handed reliever Doug Slaten. I can still remember my kids holding up signs when he came in the game that read, “I’m a Slaten Worshipper.”

Just then big No. 44 entered the batting cage and began launching balls into the right-field bleachers. Any fan who followed the team in 2008 would remember the swing of Adam Dunn, who was traded to the Diamondbacks from Cincinnati in exchange for power hitting pitcher Micah Owings.

There are perhaps no two organizations that are as closely aligned as the Nationals and the Diamondbacks. Washington’s new General Manager Mike Rizzo was a long time Diamondback employee who helped build the Arizona farm system into one of the strongest in the major leagues before leaving to head east to the nation’s capital.

Several Diamondbacks scouts and player personnel followed Rizzo and they are now building a first-class organization that continues to improve each year.

While most people focus on the rising stars such as pitcher Stephen Strasburg, it is the role players and journeymen that Rizzo is putting together that will sustain growth for the Nationals. I stand by my assessment I made when Rizzo left Arizona, the Washington Nationals will be a team to watch.

Positive steps have already been taken with the team being much more competitive this season than last. They may not be among the National League East leaders right now, but it won’t be too much longer when the Nationals will be a force to be reckoned within their division.

On the flip side, the last two seasons for the Arizona Diamondbacks have had a haunting comparison to the early Washington Nationals seasons with the team quickly eliminated from contention and getting dangerously close to having the first overall pick in next year’s draft, a reward for being the worst team in baseball.

This is definitely not the kind of storyline any Diamondbacks fan was hoping for.

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