D-backs' Hazen takes leave to be with family

June 12th, 2021

PHOENIX -- Mike Hazen put this decision off as long as he could, but a couple of days ago, the D-backs' general manager spoke with managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall to let them know that he needed to take a physical leave of absence from the team.

Hazen's wife, Nicole, has been battling an aggressive form of brain cancer for more than a year now and the couple has four sons aged 14 or younger.

When Nicole was first diagnosed, Kendrick and Hall approached Hazen and offered him the option of taking some time away if he needed it.

"First off, what I want to say is, Nicole is doing OK," Hazen said. "She is grinding along. But being realistic about the journey we’re on now, knowing what my job demands and knowing the things that are most important to me, [the situation] is demanding a percentage of my physical time that is starting to creep into my ability to do that [at the ballpark] physically. As you guys all know -- and you guys have all been on the grind of a baseball season -- the long homestands, the travel, is becoming a little harder for me to do my job to the best of my ability, and still making what is the most important thing in my life the most important thing."

Assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye will assume the day-to-day duties, but Hazen will still be involved and have the final say in baseball matters.

Physically, though, Hazen will not be at the ballpark.

"Amiel keeps laughing at me about what this process here is, and we’re explaining it in the way that everything is still going to be the same outside of the physical presence," Hazen said.

Both Hazen and Hall left open the possibility that the organization could add another person to the baseball operations department if needed.

Hazen's decision was in part influenced by the calendar. He did not want to cause disruption before the MLB Draft in July or at the Trade Deadline.

Originally, Hazen hoped that he would get the team through Spring Training and off to a good start before handing things off. The D-backs' recent struggles -- they had lost 30 of 35 games heading into Friday night's contest with the Angels -- complicated things.

"We were going to be supportive of whatever he decided to do that was best for him and his family," Hall said. "We made that clear form Day 1. Ken is 100 percent behind them. I’m 100 percent behind them. And, by the way, we haven’t talked about how long this will be. Who knows? If it’s two months, if it’s six months, if it’s a year, whatever it takes for Mike and Nicole and the boys, we’re going to allow him that time and that space. He needs his time with his boys right now. He needs time with Nicole. We love Nicole Hazen. We love Mike Hazen. We love their boys. If we did not encourage them to do this, we wouldn’t be showing them love. And he’s still going to be intimately involved in every decision. This is still his roster, his ballclub, his Minor League system and everyone is here to pitch in and help on the baseball side."

Hazen is in his fifth season as D-backs GM after spending 11 years working for the Red Sox, where he eventually became general manager under Dave Dombrowski.

Hazen met briefly with D-backs players prior to batting practice on Friday to let them know of his decision. He did so because did not want to slip away without them hearing the news from him.

The conversation with his kids was not easy and their reactions were mixed.

"It’s sort of split," Hazen said. "Two don’t really seem to mind and are like, 'OK,' and two are a little bit more engaged in what I do and are baseball rats. My eldest's reaction was, 'When are you going back?' And I said, 'I don’t know.' He’s like, 'You are going to go back at some point, right?' And I said, 'Yeah, that’s going to be the plan.' They understand. We’ve been dealing with this for a while now and they’ve taken such great care of their mom, it’s unbelievable. But they love the Diamondbacks and they love baseball. That normalcy is important, I think, at a time like this, for everybody, for all of us."