PHOENIX -- As he walked around D-backs Fan Fest on Saturday afternoon at Salt River Fields, general manager Mike Hazen was pleasantly surprised to see the fan reaction as a record crowd of over 40,000 poured into the event.Hazen knows it wasn't easy for fans to see first baseman Paul
PHOENIX -- As he walked around D-backs Fan Fest on Saturday afternoon at Salt River Fields, general manager Mike Hazen was pleasantly surprised to see the fan reaction as a record crowd of over 40,000 poured into the event.
Hazen knows it wasn't easy for fans to see first baseman Paul Goldschmidt traded or to watch left-hander Patrick Corbin and center fielder A.J. Pollock depart via free agency, so he especially appreciates the record turnout.
"It's great to see the support and the fans especially after a trying offseason from the fans' perspective," Hazen said. "We get that. The moves especially with Paul and the uncertainty that that brings, and to see fans coming out here ready for baseball season is definitely encouraging. We have to go and earn their respect and their trust when we go out there and play. We have to go out there and show them every day that we still have a really good baseball team."
This was the first year that the team had fans download free tickets to the event as a way to track attendance, and D-backs chief executive officer Derrick Hall was blown away by the response.
"It keeps getting better and better," Hall said of the event, which has grown tremendously under his leadership. "Our fans are great, and they love the interaction with the players. Our players are very cooperative, and it's nice to do it right before Spring Training because you can see the timing works for everybody."
Most of the players were on hand to sign autographs, interact with fans and participate in question and answer sessions.
Reliever Archie Bradley, who Lovullo wouldn't commit to being the D-backs' closer this season during a question and answer session with Hall and Hazen, understands that fans may miss Goldschmidt, but he also emphasized that players departing is part of the game and that it is now time for others to step up. Hall shared that several baseball people at this past week's Major League Baseball owners meetings said they were impressed by the haul the team got from the Cardinals for Goldschmidt.
"I think the biggest thing we're all trying to do with respect to Paul is Paul's gone, and we really want to harp on that," Bradley said. "Paul's not here anymore. We're not the Arizona Goldschmidts, and I mean that in the most respectful way. Paul was amazing here and is a legend forever, but it's time to move past the Goldschmidt era and have us step up and play some baseball here."
And speaking of playing baseball, the D-backs and FOX Sports Arizona announced plans for the inaugural "Baseball Day Arizona," which will feature 24 hours of baseball and softball programming, including three live games involving Arizona teams, on April 13.
The day will begin at 10 a.m. MST at Chase Field where traditional Arizona high school powers Corona del Sol and Desert Vista will play a seven-inning game.
After a softball game at Grand Canyon University in the afternoon, the action will come back to Chase Field for the D-backs' 5 p.m. MST start against the Padres.
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.