While the fans may have been dormant during the off-season the Arizona Diamondbacks were far from idle. A lot of the hard work the team put in is on the diamond with multiple changes made to a roster that has finished in the cellar of the National League West for two straight years.
It was not just the on-field product that has gone through a facelift. With Arizona scheduled to host the 2011 All-Star game at Chase Field the team has been busy modifying and upgrading parts of the facility to make it state of the art.
September 26, 2010 seems so very long ago. The Arizona Diamondbacks were finishing up their final home stand and not even with a win over their divisional rivals could ease the pain of knowing this was the last time I would be watching baseball at Chase Field until next March.
It sounded so final, “next March” like it was some distant relative that you never saw and weren’t quite sure you would ever see again. Oh sure there was still baseball to be played but it would be in what may as well have been a foreign country.
It seems like only yesterday I was counting down the minutes until the gates would open at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Now looking at the calendar it is the Diamondbacks final game of their inaugural season at the new stadium.
The complex opened to rave reviews and a sold out crowd. Each game at Salt River Fields saw some of the largest crowds in the Cactus League. While other teams were seeing a slight reduction in attendance the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks played to a full house.
Saturday February 19 marked the voluntary Spring Training reporting date for non-pitchers and catchers. You would have been hard pressed to guess that at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the new Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Position players could be seen working out at the facility as soon as it was opened.
Among those who arrived early was right fielder Justin Upton. Upton appeared to be in great shape a result of a more stringent off-season workout program. It wasn’t just showing up early that impressed me about Upton. He seemed very dialed in more so than I can imagine the last couple of years.
During the off-season I happened to be looking over the Major League Baseball transaction log when I came across a rather nondescript signing. It simply said, “The Arizona Diamondbacks sign outfielder Wily Mo Pena to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.”
Pena was once identified as a no-miss prospect with an unlimited ceiling. He was to be a superstar in the game. After signing with the New York Mets, Pena was traded to the New York Yankees where he started his professional career. A year later he was traded to Cincinnati and made his Major League debut on September 10, 2002 becoming the youngest member of the National League.
The Arizona Diamondbacks invited special guests to an exclusive event held at the new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The event called D-backs Baseball Interactive gave fans a behind the scenes tour of the new Spring Training facility and an opportunity to experience Spring Training with the team.
The day started with fans gathering on the Pepsi Patio deck where Diamondbacks officials welcomed them. The Pepsi Patio is one of three party decks at the new stadium and is situated on top of the press box of the main stadium. On the third base side and one level below is the Miller Light Taste Zone deck while the first base patio is named the Coors Light Cold Zone.
Almost from the moment that super utility man Michael Young demanded a trade from the American League Champion Texas Rangers, teams seem to be lining up to inquire about a trade. The Arizona Diamondbacks were among those who called.
With the Diamondbacks shipping third baseman Mark Reynolds and his 200 plus strikeouts per year to the Baltimore Orioles, the team has a substantial hole in their infield that Young could fill. Presently Arizona is going into Spring Training with Melvin Mora likely to get most of the playing time at the hot corner. Clearly Young would be a substantial upgrade.