Groundbreaking, It’s Easier Than It Looks

Ever since I received an invitation to the groundbreaking ceremony for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks Spring Training Facility in Scottsdale I have been counting down the days, hours, and minutes until the day the ceremony would arrive.

As I had written earlier, my friend Andre and I planned to go to the groundbreaking ceremony much to the chagrin of my daughter Tiffany. In an effort to help me maintain my status as a good father, the Diamondbacks graciously gave me another ticket to allow my daughter to go as well.

I was up early today, well before daylight. Sleep was the farthest thing from my mind. I laid in bed until I could not stand it any longer and I got up and showered. I stood in my closet surveying my wardrobe wondering what one wears to a groundbreaking ceremony?

DSC_1507On the one hand I would be mingling with local dignitaries and celebrities. On the other hand, there was dirt to be tossed and wheelbarrows to push and I know how much Trina hates me to play in the dirt in my Sunday church clothes.

After stressing out about this for longer than I should, I decided to wear a Diamondbacks polo shirt under a Diamondbacks sweatshirt and my Diamondbacks jacket. I once again lamented to my wife the fact that I have yet to find Diamondbacks underwear (a situation she is very grateful for).

The ceremony was to begin at 11 AM. By 9 AM I was pacing the floor willing the clock to move faster. Finally by 9:30 AM I could not stand it any longer and left the house. I had with me my daughter Tiffany and two cameras to record the events.

We picked Andre up along the way and drove to the Pavillions shopping center in Scottsdale. From there we went North following the signs to parking areas that had been set up for our use. I think I stopped and talked to ever parking attendant along the way making sure I knew exactly where I was to go.

We parked the car and got ready to walk to the ceremony area. I actually had butterflies in my stomach. I am not sure why I was so nervous. After all, it wasn’t me that had to shovel the dirt. The Diamondbacks were very clear that I was not to bring either a shovel or a wheelbarrow.

As we walked to the area, there were wooden chairs set up in front of a large stage with a podium. Behind the chairs was the location of home plate in the new stadium. It was marked not only with the plate itself but with batter’s boxes and a catcher’s box. Behind the plate was another stage filled with video cameras and crews to document this occasion.

DSC_1542Besides the stage and chairs there were booths scattered around the area. They were offering bags of Poore Brothers potato chips and bags of peanuts with special commemorative stickers documenting the event.

There were Pepsi products available as well as hot dogs. Cold Stone Creamery was also there handing out ice cream. They didn’t appear very busy but that was understandable considering it was still pretty cool with a breeze blowing in from what would be the outfield.

The Rally Backs were there with an inflatable batting toy for the kids. Baxter the Bobcat was also in attendance walking around patting everyone on the back and bringing smiles to the faces of all the kids.

There was a tent that had artist renderings of what the Spring Training complex would look like and another tent that gave information about the Salt River Indian community. There was also a media check-in booth and another for VIP check-in.

Andre and Tiffany kept pushing me to try and get us checked in as a VIP but honestly I was just happy to be there and the last thing I wanted to do was get in trouble and possibly get kicked out by impersonating a VIP.

Next to the booth handing out potato chips and peanuts there were two guys handing out white baseballs with the logo of today’s event. I definitely picked up one of those and plan on integrating that into my family room display right next to the base I am going to mount on the wall. We saw some people with black baseballs but I have no idea what those were although Andre is sure those were given to VIPs at check-in.

Many of the Diamondbacks organization were there. It was like a who’s who from the org chart. Managing partner Ken Kendrick was there as was CEO Derrick Hall. Most of the Season Ticket Representatives were there including my rep Mandi Howard.

I thanked her profusely for allowing me to attend the event. Her first question to me was, “you didn’t bring your shovel or wheelbarrow did you?” I assured her that I didn’t even though my shovel was in the trunk just in case.

I also saw Dustin Payne there and again thanked him for the opportunity to cross of number two on my bucket list. It was great to see everyone although it did make me a little depressed thinking it would be another 140 days, 3 hours, and 10 minutes until Opening Day.

Soon we took our seats and the ceremony started. The master of ceremonies was Diamondbacks announcer Daron Sutton. He did a great job keeping things moving and brought enough humor to keep the audience actively involved.

DSC_1578Derrick Hall spoke and thanked Pima County and the City of Tucson for all the wonderful memories and for hosting the Diamondbacks for Spring Training since the team’s inception. It was a very classy thing and I appreciated his statement.

He also talked about how exciting this move was for the fans in Phoenix to no longer have to make the drive to Tucson to see the team play each spring. He also went on to say the Diamondbacks would not forget their Tucson fans and are planning to make it easier for them to come to Scottsdale to see the team play.

The Rockies team officials likewise thanked Tucson and said how much they looked forward to working with the Indian community to make this Spring Training complex the best in all of Major League Baseball.

After all of the speeches, the members on the podium came down in front of the stage and grabbled a hardhat and shovel. I was a little disappointed that the hard hats weren’t Sedona Red but given the Rockies presence I guess that should be expected.

The shovels were much nicer than the one I had in the trunk of my car. These had bright silver blades that were polished to mirror consistency. The logo of the event was engraved upon the blade. The handles were the shape of a baseball bat.

The dirt was shoveled and the event came to a close. I have to be honest, if that is all the dirt they are going to move, that park is never going to get done. Someone is going to need to work some overtime that’s for sure.

Tiffany walked around taking pictures of the event and the people capturing the memories and the emotion of the day. Luis Gonzalez was there and stood tirelessly autographing baseballs for everyone who wanted one.

Manager AJ Hinch was there surveying the site trying to envision what it would look like finished. General Manager Josh Byrnes was there as was former GM Joe Garagiola Junior.

I did get an opportunity to talk to Derrick Hall for a moment. I had to ask whether the shovel handles were maple bats or northern ash. He laughed and said since none of the handles broke they must be northern ash.

He did say there would be one perhaps two practice fields with the exact dimension of Chase Field to get the players an opportunity to practice on a diamond just like Chase. On more than one occasion he referred to this venue as Disneyland for baseball fans.

Fans will be able to walk through the complex with the players and they plan to make this the most fan friendly Spring Training facility in baseball. Given his success with Chase Field, I am confident he will do just that.

As the crowds died down, I took a walk where the playing surface will be in 2011. It is hard to imagine this large mostly dirt lot will be a thriving baseball complex in just over a year. I walked in what will be the outfield and tried to imagine what it would be like to be at the first Fantasy Camp at the new facility.

The outfield dimensions looked huge right now but once it is finished and the crowds file in to watch that first game, it will seem small and intimate just the way the fans want it.

While Trina has threatened me that I cannot go up to the site every night and check progress; I do plan on making the trip along the 101 and see how things are going as often as I can. This was indeed a special event today and I am grateful I was able to be there and share it with my daughter and my friend. The photos we took captured the moment; it is something I’ll never forget.


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