Crossing Off Number Six from the Bucket List

It’s funny how life works sometimes. On that fateful day during the 2008 off-season when my wife suggested that we watch a movie I could have never imagined what that would mean to me. I am not averse to going to a movie with my wife in fact I kind of enjoy it as long as it’s not baseball season and the movie is not some kind of chick flick.

To her credit Trina was lenient. Given the amount of baseball insanity she has to deal with being married to me she could have suggested The Notebook, Confessions of a Shopaholic, or Little Women. Instead she suggested The Bucket List starring Jack Nicolson and Morgan Freeman.

Watching that movie caused me to take a moment and reflect on my own mortality and led to me creating my own personal Bucket List. Even though I created such a list I never imagined anything would come from that.

Since that time I have been truly blessed by some incredible people. Much to my amazement I have actually been able to experience some of these items.

The first item to be crossed off was number three – Watching a game from the owner’s seats at Chase Field. I owe a tremendous thanks to Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall for this opportunity. He and his wife were incredible welcoming Trina and I down to their seats to watch a game last season. If nothing else came true from that list I could have died a happy man taking with me the memories of fulfilling one of these experiences.

Later that season through the efforts of Dustin Payne, the Manager of Fan Loyalty and Promotions, I was given the opportunity to cross off number two – Replace the bases during a game with the Chase Field grounds crew. That too was an once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.

I would never have imagined that I would accomplish one item on my “Bucket List” and by the end of last season I had completed two! During this past off-season the Arizona Diamondbacks Season Ticket Holders department offered a “Behind the Scenes” tour of Chase Field.

I could not believe my luck. This just happened to be number nine on my “Bucket List”. That too was an incredible experience that I will never forget. I was content with my life having accomplished almost a third of my list. I had no idea my life was about to get much better.

I received an email from Greg Salvatore, the Diamondbacks Director of Publications. He had been speaking with Shaun Rachau the Vice President of Communications and thought it would be interesting to have a fan’s perspective in the D-Backs Insider Magazine.

They thought a story of a fan fulfilling items on his “Bucket List” would make a great story. They reached out to me to ask if I would be interested in crossing off number six from my list.

I pulled out my list and scanned down to see number six – Visit the Press Box at Chase Field during a game. My mind was racing. I remember when I was creating this list contemplating what should go on the list and why.

I have always been fascinated with the press wondering how they go from watching the same game I am watching to writing in-depth articles about the team and its players. I’ll admit, I had no idea how the press worked. All I knew I learned from television and movies.

I imagined the writers sitting around a smoky press box with their scorecards marking questionable calls and uncovering the Black Sox scandal or documenting the emergence of Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was. Maybe I would be there to witness history such as when the reporters covered Randy Johnson’s perfect game in Atlanta or Roger Maris belting his 61st home run to surpass Babe Ruth.

Greg and I worked out a schedule and I would cover the April 24th game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies. In all my excitement I completely forgot to ask if there was a dress code or if I would need to buy a Fedora. Greg did say to bring my laptop so at least I would not need to find a manual typewriter.

The day of the game could not come fast enough. I could not believe my luck. Not only would I be covering the Arizona Diamondbacks from the press box but I would get to do it on Justin Upton Bobble Head Night! That of course brought new stress, as a member of the working press did that mean I would not be eligible to get a bobble head? This could be a deal breaker.

Not to worry, I was told I would still be able to receive a bobble head. Wow these press guys are lucky!

When I arrived at the stadium I called Greg who met me at the gate and took me to the Will Call window to receive my “Press Pass”. How cool was that? After receiving my press credentials we walked through the “wow lobby”.

Just before game time we went upstairs to the press level. We stopped by Greg’s office and I was given a tour of the Diamondbacks office area. As we were leaving we ran into Roland Hemond!

How cool is this? He stopped to talk about the previous day’s game and the state of the team. Here is a guy that has more experience in baseball than I have lived on this planet and he’s talking to me about baseball and the Diamondbacks.

This is the kind of thing that never happens and one of the major reasons why visiting the press area was on my “Bucket List”. I could have dropped over dead right at that moment and even heaven would not have been any better.

After visiting with Mr. Hemond we went to the Press Box. There was Shaun Rachau. He welcomed me to the Press Box and gave me a 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks media guide. I have collected every media guide the Diamondbacks have created and use it until the pages are nearly unreadable.

I was assigned a seat on the third row next to Greg. In front of us was sitting Nick Piecoro the Diamondbacks beat writer from the Arizona Republic.

In front of him sat Barry Bloom, columnist for MLB.com. I was hoping to meet Steve Gilbert who writes for the Diamondbacks web site but it was his day off. It was a surreal feeling seeing these people in person. I read their articles daily and now I am sitting among them.

To the left of Mr. Bloom sat the official scorer. I thought back at how many times I had disagreed with the person in that chair over the years. After watching him work this game I came away very humbled and will never again question why he made the calls that he did.

The press room was busy with writers and their laptops. Next to them were notebooks where they were jotting down items that would later become part of a column or a question for a player or a coach.

I was somewhat surprised to see how many of these writers had iPhones and wondered to myself whether there was an opportunity to create a press app or one that gave them access to information about the team from a historical perspective.

I was a little disappointed to see that most of the writers were using what I would call ancient laptops. I guess the papers and magazines didn’t see the need to keep their reporters up with the latest technology.

It was interesting to see how many of these writers use MLB Gameday and in particular Pitch FX during the game. It made me wish even harder that the Diamondbacks would offer Wi-Fi to Season Ticket Holders so that we too could access Gameday from our seats.

Behind the press box was the press dining room. The food line-up didn’t look anything like the concessions I was used to seeing on the main concourse. I didn’t see any Hungry Hill sausages so the press doesn’t get everything.

The official scorer not only is keeping score but at each pitcher change he would announce the leaving pitcher’s stats. The Diamondbacks likewise had someone that would announce interesting information about the batter such as number of home runs, how many were hit in a particular count, etc. I silently wondered if there was any way for me to get similar information at my seats, probably not.

Besides my laptop I also had game notes that the team provides to each member of the press. These were a wealth of information and yet one more thing I am going to miss when my press day is over.

After the final out was recorded I joined the other members of the press and took the elevator down to the press room. In walked Arizona Manager AJ Hinch to answer questions from the reporters.

There were only 10-12 people in the room and of those only two were asking questions. Like many games this year the questions revolved around the failure of the bullpen to maintain a lead.

The press conference lasted just five minutes at which point Hinch returned to the clubhouse. I was told that on days when the team loses Hinch is not very talkative. He was a lot more intense than the general public sees. Clearly the losing is grating on him and I would guess behind closed doors he can and probably will erupt if things don’t get better.

After the press conference we went back up to the press box where I collected my things and looked around one last time. I had just finished covering a baseball game from the Press Box at Chase Field.

While the Diamondbacks were not victorious it didn’t damper my mood at all. I was still floating in a dream that all began with a simple request by my wife to go to a movie. This experience definitely deserved to be on the “Bucket List”.


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