It’s now been ten days since my surgery and I am finally able to get up enough energy and endurance to be at the computer for a few moments. My last blog entry ended as I was leaving for the hospital so I thought perhaps I owed everyone an update.

Going into surgery there were more unknowns than knowns and I admit I was more nervous than facing a Randy Johnson fastball. Everyone around me did their best to try and get me to relax but the fact remained, I was about to go into surgery and the Diamondbacks had two games remaining in the home stand against the Baltimore Orioles. How could I possibly relax?


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I’ve sat down to write this several times and at each point where I put my fingers on the keyboard I have to step back and re-compose myself. It’s early in the morning and I am about to leave for the hospital. Approximately three weeks ago I visited with the latest doctor and was told that I have some sort of unknown mass on or near my pancreas that has doubled in size in the past year.

It was uncovered a couple of years ago during a normal exam and at the time the doctors decided to just watch it. Suddenly though things have changed and I have found myself meeting with multiple specialists and teams of doctors who all seem to be baffled by what they are seeing. Given a long history of cancer in my family the doctors feel it would be best to remove it as soon as possible. I attempted to negotiate a surgery at the end of the season but was told they did not wait until the end of the home stand.


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On November 15, 1995 the Arizona Diamondbacks made their first major league signing. The team was still three years away from playing their first game. They did not have a stadium yet, they would not break ground on Bank One Ballpark for another day but on this day they made national headlines with a signing of William Nathaniel Showalter III who would be the first manager in Diamondbacks history.

Showalter had been the manager of the New York Yankees and had been named American League Manager of the year in 1994. He led the Yankees to the play-offs as a wild card team in 1995. Shortly after the playoffs he was fired and then Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo seized the opportunity to bring in one of the brightest minds in baseball.


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Getting Dirty

Shortly after Derrick Hall took over as President and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks he instituted a program he referred to as FAWTSY, which stands for Find A Way To Say Yes. It was more than a catch phrase; it became a philosophical mantra that he tried to instill into each and every person associated with the organization. In essence the premise reminds employees of the importance of the customer. Rather than doing things the way they have always been done or according to some arbitrary rule Hall challenged his team to try and find a way to say yes to the customer. This is not a new concept; world-class customer service is a key to many successful businesses. The key is not the concept itself but how well it becomes woven into the culture of the organization.

Over the course of the years I have had a lot of opportunities to test how engrained this mantra has become. It’s not that I look for ways to challenge the Diamondbacks, it probably just seems that way. In each instance my request is met with stunned silence followed by a hesitant “ok” and a promise they will do what they can. In every case so far the team and its employees have come through impressing me along the way. Let me give you an example.


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Before the season begins when the promotional giveaways are announced I will peruse the list and try to estimate which of these free pieces of swag will draw the most interest and the largest crowds during the season. I have long contended that in a market trying to develop baseball fans it is sometimes the giveaways that will drive the people to experience baseball in person.

To diehard fans this is somewhat blasphemous. Why anyone would actually need an excuse to go to the ballpark to watch a game in person seems inconceivable. The real question should be why aren’t people always at the ballpark and bringing free giveaways to the Diamondbacks as a tribute and thanks much like the Native Americans who brought gifts and bounty to the first Thanksgiving.


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“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.”

These words are the opening dialog to the literary masterpiece Moby Dick. The Herman Melville novel was first published in 1851 and according to every English and Literature teacher I ever had it is considered of the great American novels. The story on its surface is about a man in search of a whale. Not just any whale, but a white whale. I’ve been “forced” to read this book on numerous occasions throughout my education. Each time the teacher would tell us about the complex themes, metaphors, and stylized language. To me, it was just the story of a guy looking for a fish; I mean mammal.


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An off day in the middle of a home stand is a phrase that normally brings shivers up and down your spine. Off days at the beginning or end of a road trip are a little bit easier to swallow. At the beginning you have said your good-byes to the team and have come to grips with the fact that you won’t see your loved ones for a while. Likewise an off day at the end of a road trip while bad is not as painful since you haven’t seen your team for a while and besides you’re excited because the next day is the beginning of a home stand. It’s when the off day occurs at home that is so troubling. You go to a couple of games then BAM! No baseball for a day then you have another three days. Perhaps the most accurate visual I can come up with is that you feel like the bird that thought it would be a good idea to fly between the mound and home plate during a Spring Training game when Randy Johnson was pitching. Yeah, I’m talking about that one.

As if having no baseball was not bad enough, my wife decided that a doctor’s appointment would be the perfect replacement for a day at the ballpark. It’s not that I hate going to the doctor, well it’s not like I hate going to the doctor as much as I hate going to the dentist, it’s just that I wouldn’t put a doctor’s visit even in the same book as going to a ballgame let alone as a good replacement. But given that there was not a baseball game I didn’t really have a choice.


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