BOCA CHICA, Dominican Republic -- Under normal circumstances, a typical Caribbean thunderstorm might put a halt to a game of baseball, but not even a sustained downpour could dampen the spirits of the nearly 100 youngsters and 30 D-backs front-office members when they dedicated a new youth baseball field during their goodwill trip to the Dominican Republic.
It was, after all, the reason the contingent of employees had traveled to the island nation as the winners and MVPs of the D-backs Give Back League, a first-of-its-kind program within the front office to determine which group of employees could have the biggest impact on the local Arizona community.
"I'm speechless," said D-backs senior manager of ticket operations Luis Calderon as he watched his colleagues playing joyfully on the field in the middle of a rainstorm Wednesday morning with kids who spoke no English but clearly shared his love for the game of baseball. "This is honestly the coolest thing I think I've ever seen."
The rains and wet field conditions had moved the dedication from the actual field that the D-backs have renovated in Tanquecito, near their academy in Boca Chica, to one of the back fields of the team's complex. But that just meant that for many of the kids, they would be playing on the most well-manicured grounds they had ever seen in person.
Just before the storm hit, a dedication ceremony took place at home plate and D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall spoke to the kids in addition to several local dignitaries and members of the media on hand.
"We hope that you will each grow up to be Diamondbacks players," he told the youngsters. "But the most important thing is that you should play the game the right way, respect your parents and teachers and always remember when you're on these fields that the D-backs care about you."
After Hall's comments, Boca Chica Mayor Daniel Ozuna surprised the team with a certificate of appreciation for its efforts and another one declaring Hall a distinguished guest of the city.
"We are truly blessed that the Diamondbacks care about the Dominican Republic and Boca Chica," Ozuna told the crowd. "We hope that every Major League team that has operations here will follow their lead and give back to the people who need it."
Along with the renovated field, the D-backs donated nearly a dozen equipment bags filled with brand new bats, helmets, catcher's gear and baseball gloves for use by the local youth. As each youngster grabbed a mitt, they could not hide their excitement and an impromptu clinic broke out with the D-backs employees throwing ground balls and popups to kids in the infield while others played catch in the outfield.
When the skies opened up, several of the adults sought shelter in the dugouts while the youngsters and D-backs representatives stayed on the field and soaked in the rain and the undeniable feeling that they were doing something meaningful for a country that has helped produce hundreds of Major Leaguers.
The employees were so moved that several of them handed over their own gloves or hats that they had brought with them on the trip to the children.
"To have so much impact in our local community in Phoenix with the Give Back League has been incredible, but then to be able to have a similar impact here, somehow it's even more impactful when you see how much need there is," said D-backs vice president of finance Craig Bradley, who came up with the concept for the program and organized the trip. "One of the things that struck me the most was the impact that you can have on these people's lives without that much effort.
"I'm just so thankful that [managing general partner] Ken Kendrick and Derrick put us in a position where we can do this," Bradley added. "I've always thought for years that we could do something meaningful in the community down here and when we empowered our employees, it's really amazing what we were able to accomplish."
Josh Rawitch is the senior vice president of communications for the Arizona Diamondbacks.