PHOENIX — It was a Valley sports crossover at Chase Field Tuesday night as Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges, along with teammates Cameron Johnson and Cameron Payne, made a special appearance at the game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies for 'Mikal Bridges Appreciation Day.'
Bridges is from Philadelphia and is a Phillies fan, but that is not why the D-backs decided to honor the 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year finalist.
This dates back a couple of months to June 2022. The D-backs went on the road to play the Phillies for a 3-game series and the D-Backs made a friendly wager with Bridges.
“It’s just crazy,” Suns Forward Mikal Bridges said. “Just the coincidence of the Phillies coming out here and playing on my birthday, is just wow. I am excited to be here and have never done anything like this.”
If the D-backs won the series in Philadelphia, then Bridges would come to Chase Field in a full D-backs uniform. If the Phillies won, then the D-backs would celebrate 'Mikal Bridges Appreciation Day.'
The Phillies won two out of the three games, and thus, 'Mikal Bridges Appreciation Day' was born.
Before tonight's game, Bridges, Payne, and Johnson came down onto the field to meet the Diamondbacks players and watch batting practice.
"It's really cool, other athletes, we're fans of all different types of sports," Bridges said. "I love baseball, I love playing MLB: The Show so it's just like crazy just knowing these guys and just watching them, it's just surreal."
Bridges also got a personalized D-Backs jersey and threw out the first pitch.
The celebration also fell on Bridges' 26th birthday, so fans got to sing 'Happy Birthday' to him.
"The coincidence of Philly coming out here and playing on my birthday in Phoenix, it's just wild," Bridges said. "I'm just excited to be here. (I've) never done anything like this, watching (batting) practice and everything, it's really dope."
Bridges says this was already one of his top birthdays, but one thing would have made the best.
"If the Phillies win too, it's going to be the greatest birthday," Bridges said. "But, nah, I just want a good game. And the Phillies to win. I can't lie, I can't lie."
However, the Diamondbacks didn't let that happen, beating Philadelphia 12-3.
Although Bridges appreciated the love, his loyalty for teams didn’t waver.
“They got to know who I’m really here for,” Bridges said “I’m for the boys over there!”
All in all, not a bad birthday for a local professional athlete who is beloved by so many across the Valley.
This celebration also came as the D-backs announced that the team was exercising manager Torey Lovullo's team option for 2023, meaning Lovullo will be back for his 6th season.
Lovullo says he considers the Valley to be his home and is honored to return for another season leading the D-backs.
"I couldn't think of a better situation to be in with great ownership, great leadership and the rest is up to the players and there's great players," Lovullo said.
Lovullo also said the emergence of young players like Daulton Varsho, Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy, and the newly called-up Corbin Carroll shows that there is a bright future for baseball in Arizona.
"We're moving forward," Lovullo said. "This organization has a lot of really good things to look forward to, but I want to make sure that we're not happy with where we're at today. We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot of building to do. We've got a lot of work to put in. We've got a lot of development that needs to take place every single day with our young players, and more are coming. But, we've seen some very good results and we're in a good spot right now. We want that to continue."
General Manager Mike Hazen said it was an easy decision to exercise Lovullo's option because the team he is seeing on the field night-in and night-out is much better than the one he watched a year ago.
"The work that they're doing with the players, the quality of play versus last year is noticeably different," Hazen said. "And Torey deserves a lot of credit for that. The work he's put in with our players, the relationships he's built with our players, this group of players that we've talked a lot about, I feel like it's important for him and them to continue this relationship that's been established. What he and the coaching staff have asked them to buy into, he needs to be here to see that through."
The Diamondbacks will wrap up their series against Philadelphia on Wednesday at Chase Field. 1st pitch is at 6:40 p.m.