ARLINGTON — Evan Longoria waited 15 years to get another crack at winning a World Series title.
Now, as the veteran third baseman/designated hitter returns to the game’s biggest stage when his D-backs face the Rangers in the 2023 World Series, he feels more ready to go out with a ring than what he did at the age of 23. rookie with the ’08 Rays.
The biggest difference this time?
Longoria won’t go into Game 1 on Friday with a “stupid” approach.
“As a young player, I really believe the path to victory is: I have to get a hit every time I go out there,” Longoria said Thursday at Globe Life Field. “That’s the kind of pressure I put on myself. Like, ‘If I don’t play well in this series, we’re not going to win.’
“In retrospect, that was obviously a foolish thought.”
There was little question that the pressure had gotten to him before.
Longoria turned in a star performance in the 2008 American League Championship Series, driving in eight runs, scoring eight more and hitting a home run in four straight games as Tampa Bay topped Boston in seven games.
But under the bright lights of the World Series, Longoria retreated into the shadows.
He went 0-for-16 with nine strikeouts in the first four games of the 2008 Fall Classic against the Phillies. Longoria’s lone hit — an RBI single in the Rays’ decisive Game 5 loss — was too little, too late to save Tampa Bay.
“I just had all the pressure and weight on me as a young player,” Longoria said, “and I really felt like the stadium was collapsing on me.”
That kind of admission is one that a young player almost never makes at the moment. But Longoria’s openness and willingness to share his own experience may now help another 23-year-old rookie: D-backs superstar Corbin Carroll.
“I told him many times throughout the postseason about not treating it differently,” Longoria said. “Hopefully, he’ll take some of it to heart.”
It’s safe to say Carroll is listening.
“What happens happens,” Carroll said on the eve of the World Series. “I’m just going to go out there and try as hard as I can. All I can control is my effort and my process and all the work I put in.”
As Longoria opened up about his personal expectations for his first World Series, Carroll seemed to agree with Longoria’s harsh “stupid” assessment.
“In terms of Longo, I think he said he didn’t hit until [fifth] game and he felt like the world came crashing down,” Carroll said. “But we kind of laughed it off, honestly, because if you go two games in the regular season without a hit, that’s it. It will turn around. We have to treat it the same way.”
Carroll has already put that lesson to good use this postseason. After going 3-for-23 (.130) without an extra-base hit or a stolen base in the first six games of the NLCS in Arizona’s win over the Phillies, Carroll stole the show in Game 7. He went to 3-for-4 with two RBI and two stolen bases to help the D-backs capture the pennant.
Longoria has full support from her manager to make these chats happen.
“It was probably a Day 1 conversation in my office that I gave him free rein to do whatever he needed to do,” Torey Lovullo said. “… The conversations he has without me are more powerful than any other teammate or any coach because of [his] reputation. And he never stopped doing that.”
That’s why Longoria didn’t hesitate to remind all his teammates — not just the rookies — that no single player can carry Arizona to a title. The 2023 World Series won’t be won or lost by any pitch or an at-bat — or even a game, for that matter.
Longoria’s initial vision of how to win a World Series — “You get it in your head that the best path to victory is if you lead the team,” he recalled thinking — didn’t work 15 years ago.
“That vision is so clear in my head how we’re going to win this series,” Longoria said. “Now, we’ve just got to go out there and really do it. We’ve got to go out and execute what we’ve been doing all year.
“But I really believe it’s there for the taking and we can do it.”