The Arizona Diamondbacks continually describe themselves as “the most fan friendly team in sports”. Based upon my interaction with the team this past 14 seasons I would be hard-pressed to disagree. I am constantly amazed at how far this team would go for their fans. Whether it is helping them find the perfect anniversary present to making sure a fan’s first visit to Chase Field is a memorable one; the Diamondbacks continually set the bar high then reach beyond it.
While being the most fan-friendly is a great marketing slogan, I have come to the conclusion that it is contagious. Every Diamondbacks employee I come in contact with goes out of their way to make the fan experience enjoyable each game. Lately though I’ve noticed that mindset go beyond the Diamondbacks staff.
During All-Star week there were countless numbers of Season Ticket Holders who reached out and volunteered at the various events. There were familiar faces directing guests to the one venue or another, helping at the FanFest as people from out-of-town were looking for help, to greeting the players at the stadium with welcome gifts.
These Diamondbacks fans seem to have caught the exemplary customer service mantra to heart as they attempted to make each interaction be the most fan-friendly in sports. As a result the All-Star festivities were amazing and everywhere you heard about how great Phoenix was and how surprised the visitors were to find Phoenix is indeed a baseball town.
With the conclusion of the All-Star game my expectation was that things would return to normal and while the Diamondbacks would continue to try and provide a positive fan experience. I didn’t expect that just over a week after the Midsummer Classic that baseball and Chase Field would again be the talk of the country; all because of a little boy.
At every game in every stadium of Major League Baseball the fans eagerly watch the game and hope that somehow the Baseball Gods will smile upon them and they will get a baseball. I’m not exactly sure why these $15 baseballs are so important to fans but they are and it’s amazing to see what someone will do to get one.
By now everyone has seen pictures or heard horror stories where normally sane adults will crawl all over each other and in some cases resort to fistfights all in the name of a baseball. We’ve also been reminded all to often that sometimes the pursuit of a baseball can lead to tragic results.
During the Diamondbacks series with the Milwaukee Brewers we also saw that it doesn’t have to be that way and we learned this lesson from a child. Twelve year old Ian McMillan was given a baseball that was tossed into the stands by Brewers All-Star Rickie Weeks.
McMillan wasn’t the expected recipient. The ball originally was destined for a Brewers fan who dropped the ball. McMillan could have taken the baseball and put it on his bedroom shelf and tell everyone what it was like to get a major league baseball.
Instead McMillan returned to the scene and handed over his prized possession to the young Brewers fan who should have gotten the ball. In that moment McMillan transcended from a little boy to an ambassador for being fan-friendly.
The exchange between the boys happened to be caught on camera by Fox Sports Arizona and both boys were taken to the television booth to meet Diamondbacks announcers Daron Sutton and Mark Grace.
For his kindness McMillian was treated like royalty. He was given an autographed Justin Upton bat, a baseball and was able to throw out the first pitch during the Colorado Rockies series. It’s funny how a simple act of kindness and change a person’s outlook.
So next time a ball goes into the stands and several adults crawl over each other for a chance to collect a baseball we will hopefully remember that sometimes the best reward is following the example of a kid and that being fan-friendly is actually a two-way street.