'Diamonds Back' facility dedicated to area firefighters who died last June
PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Consider Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler a realist. Do your job, and chances are you don't get interviewed after a game. Blow a lead, and there's a mob of reporters waiting at your locker. But he'll be the first to admit he isn't all that concerned about clearing mantel space for a sudden bevy of Cy Young Awards, and he's just fine with all that.
But when it comes to making a difference whether as a loving father of two, a dedicated husband to wife Kristen, or an ardent supporter of the military and all first responders, the 34-year-old knows a more long-lasting impact can mean much more.
That's what made the D-backs' unveiling of Brad Ziegler Field, presented by APS, so meaningful to the reliever at Friday's dedication ceremony in Prescott. It was the 34th such field set up through the "Diamonds Back" field building program in conjunction with funds from the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and a donation from Ziegler himself, but it was the honor of memorializing the lives of the 19 members of Prescott's Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighting crew who gave their lives in the line of duty last June that means the most to him.
"This is a way to give back to the community in a way that has a lasting effect," said Ziegler. "This will help get young kids excited about baseball on a really nice field, but it also honors the memory of those firefighters. It's really special to have my name on the field and a true honor to be associated with that, but it's those firefighters and their legacies that we really want to highlight with this.
"I've obviously tried to give back in a number of ways, but it's never been anything where I've been this excited having my name attached to something. I just feel like it's the right thing to do. If having my name attached to it makes a kid in the Prescott area decide he'll become a D-backs fan, I think it's really neat to be associated with that, but the biggest goal for me was to do something to raise awareness for the memories of those firefighters -- to make sure their legacies and their heroism isn't lost as we get further and further away from that event, and that it will be something they'll be remembered for forever, as well."
Joining the D-backs in 2011, Ziegler wasted little time becoming a key community leader. He heads up his own foundation, Pastime for Patriots, a non-profit foundation that supports servicemembers and their families by offering them opportunities to attend Major League Baseball games, providing educationally based financial assistance to military children and family-friendly activities for military members and their relatives.
D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall was among several key D-backs and Prescott officials on hand at the dedication ceremony, including Ziegler and his wife, as well as APS president, chairman and CEO Don Brandt, Arizona Senator Steve Pierce, Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall and Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation president Mike Kennedy.
"Brad knows all about our 'Diamonds Back' field building program," said Hall. "We whispered that he'd be a perfect partner for one of these fields one day. After last year's tragedy, it struck us both. Even before I could get to him, he said, 'I would like to build a field in Prescott.' And I said, 'It just so happens that's where we're going.' With everything he does for first responders and the military, again he gets it. I use the word 'pride' when I talk about our players, but never to the level of someone like Brad Ziegler. I am so proud to have his name on this field.
"Brad comes in every day with ideas as to making our team better, our organization better and our community better. This is someone who truly cares. We look for a certain type of player. We don't look for selfish players; we look for selfless players. We look for players that are good citizens and find time to sign autographs, take pictures with fans and interact with the community -- not because there are cameras there-but because it's the right thing to do. That's who Brad is. He exemplifies that. He shines each and every day."
Added APS' Brandt, "It is our hope that Brad Ziegler Field will make a positive long-term impact on the children, the families, and the community of Prescott. APS is honored to team up with the D-backs and committed players like Brad Ziegler to make this field a reality."
Since 2000, the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation has built or refurbished 34 baseball fields representing a community investment of more than $10 million. With support from APS, and charitable contributions from D-backs players, the program has allowed children from across the state to play baseball and softball at quality facilities. The fields generally feature new lights, a branded electronic scoreboard, new fencing and backstops, new irrigation and new grass and dirt with additional support provided by local contractors and businesses.
"When we as players walk into Chase Field every day," said Ziegler, "the first things we see when we head down to the clubhouse are all the pictures and the list of D-backs that have fields. It's surreal in a way. A lot of those guys were players I grew up watching. There are some amazing names up there, so just to have the capacity to give back to the community like that and have the potential to establish a legacy, that's truly an honor."