As one door closes, another opens, so goes the saying. Arizona principal owner Jerry Colangelo recognized the leadership Mark could provide both on and off the field and signed him to a two year contract days after his release from the Cubs. "Arizona called me up, and I was a Diamondback about two minutes later," Mark explained. "That's where I always enjoyed playing, and I knew a lot of guys on the team and knew what that organization was all about. Jerry is a guy that any player would love to play for.''

Mark joined a 2001 Diamondbacks' lineup that featured ex-teammates Luis Gonzalez, Miguel Batista and Mike Morgan, as well as veterans Matt Williams, Steve Finley, Jay Bell, Tony Womak, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. The team was definitely built to win immediately. In spring training, a special team chemistry began to appear that would solidify over the season and bind Mark and his teammates together into a cohesive unit. Mark and Curt Schilling, both known for their clubhouse antics, kept the team loose and led by example on the field. Grace returned to form offensively and batted .298 on the season with 15 homeruns, including a round-tripper in his first game at Bank One Ballpark.

His first season in the teal and purple provided Diamondback fans with many moments to remember. He had an 18 game hitting streak from May 18th through June 10, a period in which he batted .422. The streak began with Mark's emotionally-charged return to Wrigley Field. In the game, he drove home the go-ahead runs with a single in the 6th inning and doubled in the 8th. On May 28th, Mark hit a dramatic 12th inning homer into McCovey's Cove at Pacific Bell Park. (Mark has a penchant for hitting homers into water. As Diamondbacks fans know, he was the first player to hit a homerun into the centerfield pool at Bank One Ballpark.) He recorded the 2,300th hit of his storied career on August 1 against the Montreal Expos. Mark was even honored on August 18th with his own bobblehead giveaway at Bank One Ballpark.

The Diamondbacks finished the regular season with a 92-70 record to capture the NL West Division crown. In the playoffs, Arizona ousted the St. Louis Cardinals in 5 games to capture the NLDS, then defeated the Atlanta Braves 4 games to 1 to win the NLCS. In the series against Atlanta, Mark hit safely in all five games and finished the series with a .375 average. The team's victory set the stage for the franchise's first World Series appearance, a date with destiny that would match them up against the New York Yankees.

The 2001 World Series will go down as one of the most memorable Fall Classics in history. Mark would play a special part in the series. In the first World Series appearance of his career, Mark hit a double and drove in two runs in Game 1. He would hit a mammoth upperdeck homerun in Game 5 off of Yankees' reliever Orlando Hernandez. Mark saved his best performance for Game 7, hitting safely twice before, in the most important at bat of his career, leading off the now legendary 9th inning rally with a single up the middle that would set the stage for Luis Gonzalez's game-winning hit later in the inning.

For Mark, the victory was sweet revenge. Emotion removed restraint from his post game speech, as he didn't hold back his true feelings. "What really feels good is I wasn't good enough to play first base for the Chicago Cubs, but I was good enough to play first base for the World Champions and that feels really good," Grace let loose. "I still can't believe it. I never thought I'd see National League champions let alone World Champions. I've got one more year left on my contract, but if I die tomorrow, I'll die a happy man."

Grace, would go on to finish his career with the Diamondbacks, playing two additional seasons in the desert. Yet age was catching up to him, and his batting average and fielding skill began to diminish over this period. In 2002, Mark was still the Diamondbacks starting first baseman. But by 2003, he had been relegated to a pinch hitter and mentor to young 1st base prospect Lyle Overbay. With his batting average at .200, Grace decided to hang up the cleats and called a press conference for September 26, 2003. At times during the proceeding, he seemed on the verge of tears. But as the consummate professional, Mark kept it together and showed everyone watching just how a professional bows out with dignity and class. The Diamondback organization showed Grace great respect in his final days. On September 27th, manager Bob Brenley penciled Grace in as the starting 1st baseman for the last time. He responded with a 2 for 3 day and enjoyed many ovations from the Arizona fans. The following day, at the Diamondbacks season finale, Grace was inserted as a defensive replacement in the 6th inning. In the top of the 7th inning, he made a fine defensive play and Brenely saw this as the perfect opportunity to take Grace out of the game to a long standing ovation.

Mark finished his career with a lifetime .303 batting average, 2445 hits, a .995 fielding percentage, and four gold glove awards. Yet he gave to the game more than statistics. His love of the game and old-school approach won over legions of fans in both Chicago and Arizona, and he remains a popular figure in both cities.

Weeks after retiring from the field, Mark accepted an invitation to join the Arizona Diamondbacks TV broadcast team. Beginning in 2004, Grace provided color commentary and plenty of laughs for Diamondbacks games. Outside of his day job, he remained busy helping raise his two sons, doing appearances for the team and local charities, and honing his golf skills on the desert courses.

Mark brought his
intensity to the desert for the 2001 season



The ring Grace helped bring to the desert



Mark was immortalized as a bobblehead for a Bank One Ballpark promotion



Grace gives the fans a
final salute before riding
off into the sunset is not affiliated with Mark Grace, his management or Major League Baseball.
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