09/11/2002 11:00 pm ET
NYPD officer a D-Backs fan
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- On Sept. 11 last year, New York City Police officer Robert Lynch arrived
at Ground Zero just as the South Tower of the World Trade Center came crashing
to the ground. He and his fellow officers prepared to enter the North Tower, but
were told by firefighters on the scene that it was too dangerous.
Lynch worked all day and well into the night at the scene, going home for a
brief shower before returning to the site. And for the next nine months, he worked
at Ground Zero as part of the Missing Persons team.
Wednesday, Lynch was in Phoenix where he participated in ceremonies at the State
Capitol and then was part of the pregame ceremonies at Bank One Ballpark. A
lifelong New Yorker, Lynch became a fan of the Diamondbacks during the team's
inaugural season in 1998.
"I was a Mets fan, but they weren't doing well and I was tired of seeing the
Yankees win so I became a Diamondbacks fan," Lynch said.
He was at Bank One Ballpark for Games 1 and 2 of last year's World Series and he
met his favorite Arizona player, Luis Gonzalez, and the two quickly became
friends. Gonzalez was Lynch's favorite in large part because he wears No. 20,
which is the New York precinct that Lynch works in.
"Their jobs are a lot more important than ours," Gonzalez said of the nation's
firefighters and police officers. "They're the ones out there fighting for us,
trying to save lives. You realize how important these people are. A lot of times
we take that for granted."
Lynch was joined by Jim Dillon, a New York City firefighter, and the families of
Jim Snedigar, Bret Tarver and Gary Bird at the pitcher's mound for the
ceremonial first pitch.
Snedigar was a member of the Chandler (Ariz.) Police Special Assignment Unit and
was killed in the line of duty, as was Tarver, a member of the Phoenix Fire
Department. Bird, a Tempe resident, perished in the World Trade Center.
Rather than throw the first pitch, Dillon set it on the pitching rubber and
the Diamondbacks announced that they would send the ball to New York City Mayor
Michael Bloomberg as a tribute to New York.
The two teams then lined up together along each foul line for a moment of silence
before trumpeter Jesse McGuire performed the national anthem. As the anthem
wound down, four F-16 fighter jets flew over the ballpark.
The game was not a sellout, but fans like Vince Travis of Phoenix had no
intention of missing the opportunity to be a part of the tribute.
"I live alone, so I really didn't have any place to go," the retired season
ticket holder said. "And I did want to be part of a remembrance for the people,
who passed away last year."
Amy Durham, a registered nurse in Prescott, Ariz., attended the game with her
mother Joan. She had a sign that was emblazoned with "God Bless America" on one
side and "Let's Roll" on the other.
"I think today I wanted to come down to the ballpark because it's nice to
be with everybody," Durham said. "And I knew they were going to have a nice
memorial type of service remembering the victims of 9/11."
The day made Arizona Bob Brenly remember Game 3 of the World Series when
President Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
"To see the President of the United States standing on the tallest point on the
field with his chest out and his chin up, you couldn't help but get chills up
and down your spine," he said. "Forget a World Series game. This is the
President of the United States standing out there openly proclaiming to the
world that we're not going to hide in the shadows."
Steve Gilbert is an editorial producer for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com.
Sandy Burgin contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the
approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.