Reaching Out to a New Generation

When we moved to Arizona in 1994, Phoenix was clearly a basketball town. The Phoenix Suns were continuously sold out and you heard stories of people spending hours on the phone the day single game tickets went on sale hoping to score tickets to a single game during the season.

When the Suns were on television it felt like the whole city stopped whatever it was doing and focused all of their attention on the basketball game. I had never lived in a city so obsessed with a sports team and soon I found myself drawn into their enthusiasm. But alas, I am not a basketball kind of guy, my love is baseball.

A New Generation of Baseball FansOn March 9, 1995 when Major League Baseball introduced the Arizona Diamondbacks as their newest franchise I was enthusiastic. If people in this town were excited about basketball just wait until they had an MLB team. Then they would have a real reason to celebrate.

I was in attendance on March 31, 1998 when the Arizona Diamondbacks faced the Colorado Rockies in their first Opening Day. Bank One Ballpark was sold out. Even the standing room only tickets were long gone as people wanted to be a part of this historic event.

Along with me I brought my wife Trina and my son Dakota who was just an infant. I had several people question why I would bring my son to the game when he was clearly too young to understand. It never occurred to me not to bring him.

Having Diamondbacks season tickets have been an annual event. We have always had two seats. I would attend every game while the second seat would be shared by the rest of the family.

Each game I would take one of my five children or my wife. It was just what we did. For 81 nights each year we would go to “the ballpark”. It was in my mind the perfect situation. It gave me an opportunity to spend quality one-on-one time with one of my children or my wife while watching the game I loved.

It gave me an opportunity to teach my children about this great sport and what it meant not just to me but also from an historical perspective. When the Diamondbacks started, my oldest daughter was 15 while my son was just a baby.

No matter their ages, they were given an opportunity to go to the game. To me it sounded like the perfect way to spend your childhood. I mean who wouldn’t want to spend time with their day at a Major League Baseball game?

At first the kids thought the same way. It was new and it was cool to be down at the ballpark. You might catch a foul ball or get an autograph. If you were lucky one of the players would wave at you.

But when a kid is subjected to this for 81 days a year for 13 years, their excitement wanes just a little. No one wants to spend that much time with dad especially if he is some crazed baseball fan that rarely if ever misses a game.

While I can’t prove this, I have a suspicion that my wife bribed the kids to go to the game offering them prizes for going just one more time. But you know, something changed somewhere along the way.

My two oldest daughters are now grown and married. They are no longer part of the regular game rotation that occurs every season. They have their own lives to live. Instead of celebrating the fact that they no longer have to spend all summer at the ballpark, they now lament the fact that they don’t have that opportunity.

Their change in attitude has proven a theory I have had for a long time. In order to build a strong loyal fan base you need multi-generational fans that grew up rooting for the team. You will get some longtime fans such as me that gravitate to the home team but the most loyal fans grow up with the game.

I recently became a grandfather for the first time. While I am lamenting the sudden loss of my youth I am excited at the thoughts of a brand new generation of Diamondbacks fans. As soon as my granddaughter Lily was born she received a Diamondbacks outfit in the mail from me.

This week they came to Arizona to visit which coincided with the beginning of a seven game home stand. Like I did with my own children, I planned to introduce baseball to the newest member of our family.

Although Lily is only four months old there she was in Section 132 Row 9 seated on my lap. I held her and my scorebook while pointing out all of the sights and sounds of Chase Field. She sat there looking all around trying to absorb this new place.

She helped me fill out the scorebook and even drooled all over the Mets line-up. We sat there for nine innings enjoying the game. It was the perfect game ending with a Diamondbacks win.

The wins and losses don’t matter nearly as much. It was the fact that I could share my love of baseball with another generation. One that I hope will one day grow up and tell her own children about the time grandpa took her to the ballpark and showed her the game he loved so much.

It is through experiences such as this that this will become a baseball town. One day the stadium will be filled to capacity with loyal fans rooting for the home team. That’s my dream, to let the children experience baseball one game at a time.


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