At the conclusion of the final home game of the 2010 regular season, the Arizona Diamondbacks held a celebration for their Season Ticket Holders on the playing surface at Chase Field. Season Ticket Holders had the opportunity to sign up and have their pictures taken with various players and coaches.
It was an overwhelming success after the 2009 season and season ticket holders I spoke to were looking forward to this event. With the home team in route to a 97-loss season, fans and team personnel were looking for anything positive to come out of the year.
As the event arrived I sent in my RSVP for the event and picked up the necessary wristband to attend. The wristbands were color coordinated by player/coach groups. My son Dakota and daughter Tiffany each selected a player they most admired to have their picture taken with.
After a long debate I finally choose right-fielder Justin Upton. It’s not that I admire Upton nor do I necessarily believe him to be the face of the franchise. I just think he is dealing with a lot of pressure from everyone’s expectations and thought it might be nice to have a photo taken and give him an encouraging word from an average fan.
For the better part of September leading up to the event Upton was injured and was not in the line-up for the Diamondbacks. He hurt his non-throwing shoulder while swinging a bat. Having gone through three shoulder surgeries myself I felt I was in a unique position to understand what he was going through.
The day of the final game of the season Upton did not seem to be visible either before or during the game. After the conclusion when the Diamondbacks awarded the “Shirts off our D-backs”, Upton was once again absent.
There were grumblings throughout the stands from fans who were growing tired of Upton’s seeming lack of concern over the fans. His connection to the community seemed too staged and a result of the well working public relations teams instead of Upton actually caring to be part of the Phoenix area.
When the post-game celebration began fans holding Upton colored wristbands were told that he would not be attending. He chose instead to fly to Alabama to see the doctor about his shoulder.
At first I gave him the benefit of the doubt. After all getting back onto the playing field is something every player should strive for. It became a little bit more difficult to explain why a player who had been out the entire month would choose that particular day to fly across the country to see the doctor on a Sunday no less.
Diamondbacks officials were left to pick up the pieces. The Season Ticket Holder Services team did an admirable job of blocking the negative comments and took everyone’s name with a promise that at some point during the off-season a meet-and-greet event would be scheduled where fans would get an opportunity to meet Mr. Upton.
Exactly a week ago an email arrived from Mandi Howard, Manager of Season Ticket Services for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The message contained an appreciation of the fans patience and understanding for the Fun on the Field event.
The rescheduled meet-and-greet with Justin Upton had been rescheduled for December 14th at Chase Field from 5:30 – 6:30 PM on the Diamond Level of the ballpark. Free parking was being offered to fans attending the event. The email concluded with a request to RSVP by end of day December 8 if you planned to attend.
I had been looking forward to attending this. Unfortunately, the timing could not have been worse. I was previously scheduled to undergo stomach surgery on December 3 but postponed that for a week so that I could attend the Diamondbacks Spring Training Select-a-Seat event.
I was still trying to explain that to the surgeon and my wife so the thoughts of moving the date another week to attend a meet-and-greet with Justin Upton was probably a long-shot at best. I still sent an RSVP for two spots thinking at a minimum my kids could have the opportunity.
As today arrived I was still heavily medicated and in no condition to attend the event. My daughters did want to go so I sent an email to my Season Ticket Representative to make sure that would be ok.
My daughters Tiffany and Whitney eagerly waited to hear whether they could attend. When we received the response from the team they jumped into the car and drove to Chase Field. They were worried they would not make it in time given the distance from where they were. I explained not to worry; the event was scheduled for an hour so even if they did not get there just as it began they still had time; or so I thought.
Sending two teen-agers into downtown Phoenix during rush hour where neither were accustomed to driving was a bad idea to begin with but that wasn’t the worst part. They arrived at Chase Field a little before 6 PM.
They made their way to the parking garage and parked the car. They followed the instructions we were given but found the gates were locked. They searched around to find someone who could help them find their way.
After going through several people they were told the event was already over and Upton had left the stadium even before they got there. So while the girls had arrived well within the timeline stated in the communication we received, they were turned away.
No explanation was given as to why Upton left early or why the stated 60-minute event lasted less than 30 minutes. At first I considered that everyone who had sent an RSVP had been met and greeted but that was not the case since I had re-verified that my daughters would be attending less than an hour before they were turned away.
I can appreciate that Mr. Upton’s time is important. I can also understand that he probably has many more important things to do in his life rather than spend 60-minutes at a darkened baseball stadium two weeks before Christmas.
From my perspective this was a complete failure. I would like to hope this was not indicative of the level of interest Upton has of interacting with the Diamondbacks fan base. The optimist in me wants to suggest that it was my fault for not somehow getting my kids down to the stadium just a little faster.
I want to give the Diamondbacks the benefit of the doubt that this was just an unfortunate turn of events. The team always seems to go out of its way to make the fan experience as enjoyable as possible. It is one of the things I admire most about the franchise. But tonight they took a serious hit from a public relations standpoint by two young fans who won’t be cheering in Uptown next season.