I recently chronicled the departure of former Diamondbacks that have now found their way with new teams. While writing that piece I became just a little nostalgic reminiscing about the players who have come and gone during the history of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It used to be a novelty to see players on other teams who had played for the local team. That’s what happens when you are an expansion team.
There is no history, nothing to relate to. The team was not there and suddenly it was. Discussions about the “dead ball” era or comparing great players from the past to the present were relatively meaningless since there really were no players from a bygone era.
Even during last season’s tenth anniversary celebration of the 2001 World Series Championship seemed a little premature. When I was a kid a decade seemed like an eternity. Now I look in my closet and I still have clothes that are over ten years old. Granted most of those are purple, teal, black and have a Diamondbacks logo but still they are not from this century.
Now we are starting to see the first a changing of the guard. Not just with the players but also with the fans. My own family is a prime example. When the Diamondbacks became a franchise my son was just a baby less than one year old. Although he can’t remember it, he was there for Opening Day in 1998 as the Diamondbacks took the field for the very first time.
That season he went to over 30 home games and by the time he was walking and talking he knew what baseball was and who we were going to see when we passed through the turnstiles. His entire childhood was spent in the confines of Bank One Ballpark. He was there when the name changed to Chase Field and witnessed more than a few historical moments on the field.
By the time he was school age his closest friends were the ushers at the ballpark and those at the Diamondbacks academy. He spent many an hour shagging balls or hitting in the batting cages at first at Peter Piper Playhouse beyond center field then in the upper deck when the Diamondbacks created the kids area above Friday’s Front Row grill.
The employees at Chase Field began to think of him as one of their own children and would greet him before every game. I remember one day going to the upper deck to watch him it in the cages. He took a few swings then the man behind the pitching machine yelled, “Switch!” Dakota moved to the left hand batters box and proceeded to hit several pitches with power. I remember being in awe and asking him when he became a switch hitter. His response was, “Dad, we go to 81 games a year. I got bored hitting from just one side all the time.”
Now each season when we walk through the concourse before the game we are met and greeted by name. The Diamondbacks have become an extended family. From the vendors calling out the familiar cries of “Lemonade, lemonade just like Grandma used to make” to the guest relations staff in their familiar straw hats we have shared an awful lot since March 31, 1998.
I find that now when I see a name come across the transactions wire I think back not just to the players in the uniforms but to the friendships I have made at the ballpark and all the memories that we’ve shared.
Baseball at that point is no longer just a game or a place to go to spend a lazy summer evening. It is a place where time stands still and we have an opportunity to remember our youth and the youth of our children. I for one can’t wait for the season to start. Not just for the baseball that is being played on the field but for the memories and the people I am getting to know at the ballpark.