On the evening of February 27, 1998 for the first time the Arizona Diamondbacks took the field. It was 32 days before the Inaugural Game at what was then Bank One Ballpark. This was the first Spring Training Game to be held in Tucson Electric Park.
The complex had been built for the Diamondbacks along with the Chicago White Sox and everything was new and exciting. The first game was not a traditional day game as we’ve come to expect from the Cactus League.
In order to allow more fans the first game was scheduled for that evening. The weather was unsettled and there were questions of whether they would even play that night. But as game time got closer the weather seemed to cooperate.
The game did not start out well for Arizona. They got behind early but as the game wore on the team battled back winning their first Spring Training game. The fans in Arizona were excited to finally have a team of their own and this game set the stage for baseball in the Grand Canyon state.
Now here we are 13 years later and today marks the countdown to baseball and the Arizona Diamondbacks leaving Tucson for the greener fields of the Phoenix area.
When the White Sox broke their lease at Tucson Electric Park it began a chain reaction where the Rockies and the Diamondbacks exercised escape clauses to break their leases. Now as Spring Training 2010 winds down to its last week, it is the beginning of the end to another era in Diamondbacks history.
With just two games remaining at Tucson Electric Park, the Arizona Diamondbacks are planning several festivities to celebrate their time at the old pueblo. Today’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers was deemed Tucson Fan Appreciation Day.
Fans received a pennant marking the team’s history and were entertained with a game where the Diamondbacks beat their former teammate Doug Davis 9-1. The mood at the ballpark was mixed from the 10,009 fans in attendance.
On the one hand it was great to see the home team win but it was a reminder that this is the last year for Spring Training at the complex. Tucson officials are attempting to line up Japanese teams to train at Tucson Electric Park. If they are successful baseball may return but at this point no one knows.
While there are many Tucson fans who are bitter and feel betrayed by the Diamondbacks I know the team tried hard to make baseball work there. Unfortunately with all the other teams training in Phoenix no one seemed willing to relocate south to make it feasible.
The Diamondbacks continue to try and take care of the fans of Tucson. Today they announced a Pinal County discount to all Spring Training games at the new facility and they are planning to offer road trip opportunities that will include ticket and transportation packages to those coming from Tucson.
As the game concluded the countdown to departure became one step closer. After a one game trip to Peoria to play the Padres the Diamondbacks will have one final home game in Tucson before packing up for the last time. I for one plan to be there on Tuesday to say good-bye.