SYDNEY -- The brawny guy in the black logo shirt and dark sunglasses got a little ahead of his tour group at the Taronga Zoo the other day. He was the first to reach the Tasmanian devil cage, where the frantic little predator was pacing back and forth and glaring through the glass.
Just then, a zoo employee who was ushering this group of visitors around the exhibits entered the area. The zoo, one of Sydney's main tourist draws, has sweeping views across the harbor from the Sydney Opera House.
"Thanks for showing us around," Paul Goldschmidt said. "I know there are, like, 90 people saying different things and it can be kind of overwhelming, but we appreciate your help."
A minute or two later, Goldschmidt was holding the door for about a dozen people to exit. Later, a reporter interviewing him fumbled his fedora and Goldschmidt bent over and picked it up.
You really don't see these kinds of social graces often from a major league baseball player, truth be told, particularly not when he is, quite possibly, on the cusp of becoming the most dominant hitter in the league. The Arizona Diamondbacks know what they have in Goldschmidt: superstar talent with a humble demeanor. And they are not shy about thrusting him out there as the young face of their franchise.
The players on the other team here in Australia, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have made it abundantly clear they are here only to play baseball. Goldschmidt is actually making his second tour of Australia. He was here back in November and he obliged the locals by strapping on the pads and playing a bit of cricket.
On a tour of the zoo with several members of the Diamondbacks front office and a small contingent of media people on a recent breezy, sunny day, Goldschmidt obliged everyone. He posed for pictures sitting next to a wallaby. He cut a promotional video with team president Derrick Hall standing in front of the giraffes, after much hemming and hawing about how and where to shoot it. He did a TV interview. He chatted with a few print reporters.
For what the Diamondbacks are trying to do and be, Goldschmidt is the perfect player. For what he's trying to do and be, the Diamondbacks are the perfect vessel.
"He's a very unassuming guy, even though he's a star player. In our city and the community we feel we're a part of, that fits," Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick said. "At the end of the day, it's about the team and not about the individual, and he embraces that fully. There are great players who maybe are a little different style than Paul and that's great, but I think for our city, he's the ideal star."
Just before Opening Day 2013, the Diamondbacks and Goldschmidt agreed on a five-year, $32 million contract extension, a fairly reasonable contract for a guy coming off a season in which he led the league in home runs and RBIs, finished second in MVP balloting and had a .952 OPS. But from another perspective, it was a fairly lavish deal for a player who had just completed his second full season. Kendrick and Hall like to talk about the Diamondbacks as an extended family, and Goldschmidt seems to be this family's mature, older son, the guy who somehow persuades his younger siblings to clean their rooms.