Everyone seems to have their own definition of when spring actually arrives. There are some that put a lot of credence into the weather prognostication skills of furry rodents and spring arrives based on the results of groundhog day.
There are others who take a more scientific approach and base the changing of the seasons on the rotation of the earth around the sun. Still others are content letting the Hallmark Corporation determine when spring is here based upon a calendar date or when greeting cards are available to commemorate the occasion.
For baseball fans spring officially arrives when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. This signifies a new beginning and the end of a very long winter and off-season. For Arizona Diamondbacks fans there is a subtle nuance to the beginning of spring. It officially begins when the gates to Chase Field open for the annual Diamondbacks FanFest.
With the days getting longer and the temperatures slowly raising the official start to spring began at 11 AM this morning or 10 AM if you happen to be a Diamondbacks Season Ticket holder. From the looks of the crowds already gathered on the plaza outside the stadium, everyone was tired of winter and looking forward to spring.
As the gates open people began the mad dash to get inside the stadium. While others were rushing for field level I took my time walking slowly through the concourse getting reacquainted with my home away from home. It’s a little like coming home from college after being away for a school year. You know where everything is but it feels just a little bit different.
I couldn’t take too much time otherwise I would never make it down to the playing field. As the field came into view there were already massive amounts of people in left field where the Arizona Diamondbacks always set up their annual yard sale.
Somewhere in the middle of that crowd were my wife and my daughter who were looking for sweatshirts and other great deals. At first I wasn’t sure why they needed sweatshirts but considering the roof to Chase Field was still closed and the cool air coming off the dormant concrete did put a slight briskness in the air.
I too wandered through the yard sale looking over items for sale. There were game-used bats, autographed baseballs, yearbooks from past seasons, and an assortment of leftover stadium giveaways. Basically it looked kind of like my garage minus the oil stains on the floor. I did pick up an autographed baseball but I will leave that story for another day.
Besides the yard sale there were multiple blow-up activity centers and I was excited to try my hand at bouncing in the inflatable castle but the big Sedona Red sign out front reminded me this was a kids only area.
In centerfield people were standing below the batters-eye catching fly balls being flung by a pitching machine. Next to that were two whiffle ball fields where Diamondbacks players and members of the Diamondbacks Baseball Academy were playing with kids.
There was a Chevrolet Corvette parked on the grass just beyond second base, which was a very strange sight to see and unnerved me just slightly. There were booths to sign up for Kidcasters, Rally Backs, Racing Legends, and Golden Gloves.
I seem to be at the worst age in my life. I am too old to be a Kidcaster or a Rally Back, too young to be a Golden Glove, and too slow to be a Racing Legend (unless I want to be Mark Grace), and too poor to own the Corvette. It was kind of depressing.
The Diamondbacks had set up a Social Media Zone and they had various players take over the @Dbacks Twitter account throughout the day. There were various booths set up by Diamondbacks partners to get quotes on auto glass, sign up for Fox Sports, register for the D-backs Race Against Cancer 5K being held May 3rd, and signing up for Cox Communications products.
In the center of the diamond just behind the pitchers mound was a booth set up to offer travel arrangements to Sydney Australia. My wife and I spent a lot of time there. I was really hoping to talk her into going to Opening Day in Australia but even with two rather friendly Australian travel agents the three of us still couldn’t talk her into the trip. Spring is just starting so I am going to keep working on her.
In front of the visitor’s dugout was a stage where players, coaches, and front office staff would take the stage for question and answer sessions. These were well attended (at least the sessions I saw) and fans were very excited.
Overall there was a lot of energy in Chase Field. Last year 25,000 fans attended the event and this year looked as though it would destroy last year’s marks. It didn’t feel like an event being held by a team who had finished .500 two years in a row.
I’m not sure whether it is the excitement of Spring Training starting or if expectations truly are higher but the fan base seems to be gaining steam. Perhaps this is the beginning of Phoenix becoming a baseball town. We’ll have to see if the energy continues through May or June but it was encouraging to see.
I think the Diamondbacks have done a great job with FanFest. There was a little something for everyone who attended. Unfortunately it ended too soon and the gates to Chase Field were once again closed for another six weeks at which point most of these fans will again be walking around the stadium cheering for the home team.