The Bucket List Revisited

It is hard to believe it has been a couple of years since I first penned My Bucket List. At the time it was merely an exercise of fiction. The ten items that I listed were so far removed from reality that I questioned why I even listed them. After all, how in world would I ever be in a position where I could experience even one of these items let alone multiples of them.

But with the help of some incredible people within the Arizona Diamondbacks organization I have been able to realize some of these incredible opportunities. The culmination of the first item on my bucket list was the result of Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall who invited me to spend a couple of innings at his seat watching a game. That item was the impetus for sharing the Bucket List.

Item number two was the most exciting so far. It was such a surprise to be offered an opportunity to Steal Second. I gained not only one of the coolest pieces of Diamondbacks memorabilia ever created, but a new appreciation of the work that head groundskeeper Grand Trenbeath and his crew do every game. And seriously, how cool is it to have an actual MLB base in your family room? I keep telling Trina I want to mount it on the wall but so far she refuses to allow me to punch a hole in the wall to hang a base. That battle is not done yet.

Item number nine was a result of the great people in Season Ticket Sales including Cory Parsons, Mandi Howard, and Jamie Gostyla to name a few. They created the Chase Field Behind the Scenes Tour for Season Ticket Holders that gave me the opportunity to see the technology behind dbTV. And while my tour was not during a game, it was still pretty cool seeing how everything worked. I’ve since taken the tour a couple of different times bringing different family members. There is nothing quite as cool as seeing the man behind the curtain and realizing he truly is the Wizard of Oz.

Being able to cross off three amazing things on my bucket list was quite an accomplishment and I could have died a very happy man for having experienced these. This season has been such a whirlwind of excitement that I had completely forgotten about my bucket list. I was focused on the history being made.

There was the opening of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the most amazing Spring Training facility in the world. That was followed by Opening Day in Denver against the Colorado Rockies with my son. It was made even more special by the great seats the Diamondbacks were able to help us get.

In mid-July there were the All-Star game festivities, which were made even more special by the Diamondbacks who gave my wife and I an opportunity to hold the American flag on the field before the All-Star game. That was such an impossible event that I could not have even imagined putting it on my Bucket List but there I was living a dream.

Now with just a week left in the season the Diamondbacks were on the verge of winning the National League Western Division and returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Earlier this month I was contacted by John Prewitt from the Diamondbacks and offered an opportunity to be a part of the Diamondbacks first annual Tweetup. That alone was an unbelievable experience and I’m grateful to have been a part. Little did I know that it would lead to fulfilling Bucket List item number 6.

As final preparations were being made for the Tweetup, I received a call from John Prewitt to confirm my attendance. During the conversation he asked what he thought was probably a simple and benign question, “Would you be interested in having a media pass for Monday’s game?” That’s kind of like asking a kid if he would like extra candy on Halloween. I eagerly answered yes and plans were set for me to arrive at Chase Field before the Tweetup.

I was to go to the “WOW Lobby” and meet my escort. For those who have never experienced the “WOW Lobby” you have to stop and check it out. Located just inside gates to Chase Field it is the entrance to the offices in the stadium. It got its name from Jerry Colangelo who wanted an impressive entrance to the field and office space. He definitely met his goal. The copper, stone, and displays are incredible.

I was given a press credential with my name on it. Below it said, “Field – Press Box – Clubhouse”. Wow, a guy could get into some serious trouble with something like this. As I looked at the credential I remembered the final words my wife said before I left the house, “Try to behave yourself this time.” There was special emphasis on the “this time” which I am not sure what she meant but I did promise to do my best.

I was led down below the stadium seats via elevator to an area that few fans see especially on the day of the game. I was taken to the room where the manager gives his pre-game press conference. I walked in and looked around. There were all of the local media personalities I have seen during Diamondbacks telecasts. It took every ounce of restraint to not start yelling, “Hey Steve Gilbert! Yo Jack Magruder I’m a big fan! Hi Jodi Jackson and Todd Walsh I love your work!” Instead I played it cool and pretended that it was just another day when in reality it was like the total best day of my entire life!

I sat that trying to soak it in when the door opened and in walked Kirk Gibson. It was Gibby! I was like 15 feet away from the World Series hero, the mastermind behind the 2011 Diamondbacks, and likely the 2011 NL Manager of the Year. I suddenly had the urge to walk up to him and apologize for cursing his dog during the 1987 baseball season when he cost me a Fantasy League championship but I was pretty sure he would think I was crazy and have security haul me out ending my dream day.

Gibson took questions from the reporters not wanting to talk about Ian Kennedy’s or Justin Upton’s individual accomplishments. He didn’t want to talk about potential clinching or post game celebrations. I suddenly realized that Mr. Gibson is probably the most intense dude I have ever seen in my life.

After answering questions and setting up the upcoming game he left to return to his office where I envisioned him practicing his stare down in case there was a need for him to go eye-to-eye with an umpire or set a player straight as to what was expected to play baseball the right way.

When the game started I made my way to the press elevator. There was something surreal about walking in and asking the elevator operator to press the button for the press floor. I must have shown my credential about a million times just so they didn’t think I was trying to sneak into the press box.

I found an empty spot in the press box and sat down looking around. Here were the writers I read on a daily basis as I try to absorb any and all news about the Diamondbacks. There was Barry Bloom national writer for MLB, Steve Gilbert from the Diamondbacks web site, Jack Magruder from Fox Sports, and even a couple of writers from Pittsburgh.

I tried to act like I fit in but it wasn’t easy. Every time the Diamondbacks made a good play I clapped and everyone would turn and stare at me. I forgot you aren’t a fan when you’re in the press box. Well you are but you’re not supposed to show it so outwardly. The one good thing is that the press box seems to be a Wave-Free Zone. That alone made me want to see if I could change my Season Tickets from Section 132 to the Press Box. It’s probably an expensive upgrade though.

Everyone had a cell phone and a laptop. Well everyone but me; I had my iPad. I was surprised to see that most of the reporters had MLB Gameday loaded on their screen and were following along like the fans in the stands and at home except for that one guy from Pittsburgh who was watching a soccer game (what’s up with that).

Most of the laptops were Windows based although there were a few Macintosh computers interspersed. Those reporters were the cool kids and made sure you knew they had a Mac.

I had never prayed so hard for an extra inning game as I did that night. I wanted the game to go on forever. I watched as writers worked on pieces I would likely be reading later that night or the next day. I was amazed to see reporters talking to one another sharing information. I always thought of these guys as competitors rather than friends. It was almost like a club, one that I was a member of at least for a day.

As JJ Putz came in and closed out the game giving Ian Kennedy his 20th win I realized that my time in the Press Box was coming to an end. Reporters were gathering up cell phones and note pads and were heading down to the post game press conference. I grabbed my iPad and followed them hoping my credential was not like Cinderella’s coach that turned into a pumpkin at the final out.

No one said anything when I got on the elevator or when I entered the press briefing room. Gibson came through the door he used before the game and took his seat on the stand. He acted so nonchalant when questioned about Justin Upton hitting a home run with a broken bat or Kennedy shutting out the Pirates through eight innings.

After a few questions Gibson stood up and proclaimed the interview over. It’s funny, when Gibson leaves the room it is kind of like when the president leaves. Everyone stands up and thanks him for attending then follows him out the door.

With the conclusion of the post game news conference I figured my day was done and I was content. Problem was, I had no idea how to get out of the stadium. Like any guy I wasn’t about to ask for directions. That would totally blow my cover of a pretend member of the press. So I did what most guys do, I just followed the crowd. I figured all of these reporters had to go home sometime so if I just stayed close they would lead me to the door.

We started to walk down the hallway and after a few yards I started thinking, “I thought the elevator was the other direction?” Despite my confusion I stayed in the pack. I had seen enough Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom episodes that I knew it was the animal that broke away from the pack that usually got eaten by the lion.

After a while, we stopped in front of a roped off area with a guard standing by. Some reporters were signing a paper while the guard did his best impression of an Iron Curtain Border Patrol Officer asking each of us for our papers.

I held out my credential for him to see. He looked me over and said, “I’ll catch you on the way out.” I had no idea what that meant. I thought this was the way out. Instead I nodded meekly and continued to follow the pack. At the doorway I happened to look up and see the sign “Clubhouse”.

Whaaaat? In three steps I turned the corner and was standing in the Arizona Diamondbacks clubhouse. Post game music was blaring and players were in various states of getting dressed or talking to people. Bat boys were gathering equipment and getting instructions. In the distance players were coming out of the shower wearing towels draped around their waist.

This was clearly not what I expected. Just then my cellphone beeped. My wife and daughter were waiting for me now that the game was over and asked where I was. I quickly sent a text telling them I was in the Diamondbacks Clubhouse. The response came back, “No Way!” Well I wasn’t about to bring out my iPhone and take a picture to prove it.

I kind of stood around trying to soak everything in. I was watching as Wade Miley talked to Ryan Roberts getting tips for raising his Twitter followers. Miguel Montero was busy playing with a small boy who I guessed was his son. A small boy was talking non-stop to Chris Young telling him about the game as if CY had not seen it.

Pretty soon someone announced that Justin Upton would be first up. Reporters rushed Upton’s locker jockeying for position. Soon Upton appeared from the shower area with a huge wrap around his elbow. Reporters jumped in and began asking him about the home run and more than one question about the physics involved with hitting a ball using a broken piece of lumber. I remember thinking I definitely didn’t take enough math in school and obviously neither did Upton as he deflected the question. I just stood in the back watching.

After Upton’s interview the reporters were told closer JJ Putz would be next. The mob rushed from one side of the clubhouse to the other. I again held back not wanting to get in the way. This time Casey Wilcox from the Diamondbacks motioned me to get in there and enjoy myself.

I leaned in and held out my iPhone, which was set to Voice Memo and I asked questions of the Diamondbacks closer. I probably had the stupidest grin on my face as I listened to Putz answers and follow up questions. At least for a few moments I felt like a reporter. After Putz we moved to Ian Kennedy as he described what it was like to win his 20th game for the first time in his career.

At the conclusion of the interviews I put my iPhone away and walked out of the clubhouse. The guard true to his word caught me on the way out and had me fill out a form on his clipboard as he did for every reporter leaving.

I walked down the hallway and got back on the elevator. As I walked out of the stadium there were my wife and daughter who were patiently waiting for me to arrive. For the next half hour they had to endure me recounting all of the experiences I had as a member of the press.

When we finally arrived home I immediately went to my desk and pulled out my Bucket List. With a pen I looked down the list and slowly crossed off number six on the list. At the end I looked up and smiled. This one definitely deserved to be on the list.

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