PHOENIX -- D-backs third baseman Chris Johnson and second baseman Aaron Hill were locked into a discussion about hitting while standing near the third-base line at Chase Field on Thursday afternoon.
"You can't help it," Hill said. "You get down on the field, and you start thinking about it."
There was no game at the stadium, but an event with more of a lasting impact was taking place, as the team hosted more than 600 underprivileged children at the club's 15th annual Winter Classic Holiday Party.
"To have something like this is special," Hill said. "You don't realize how much you can impact someone's life. It feels like it's something little to us just because we're happy to do it, but I don't think players realize how much of an impact we can have on someone's life and what we can do for kids. I mean they're kids. If kids don't warm your heart, nothing else will."
Hill and Johnson were joined by teammates Ian Kennedy, Mark Teahen, Charles Brewer, Eric Hinske and Willie Bloomquist, broadcasters Bob Brenly and Steve Berthiaume and bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock. They helped pass out brand new pairs of shoes to the children, along with backpacks that contained D-backs sweatshirts and two new books, courtesy of the University of Phoenix.
D-backs front office employees helped purchase the shoes for the children and were volunteers during the event.
"It's great, and it's really grown," D-backs team president and CEO Derrick Hall said. "It started out as an event where we just gave out shoes, and now it is the backpack, the sweatshirt and the socks. It's a great opportunity for our employees to give back. Our players now know what to expect. They know if they come out here it's going to be rewarding for them as well. We hear the feedback from the players that this is one of their favorite events. They get to get down and put the shoes on for the kids, interact with the kids. I can't thank them enough for wanting to be a part of it. It's not like we have to pull teeth or drag them here. They enthusiastically come out here."
While some handed out the shoes, others pitched Wiffle balls to kids at one of the several play stations throughout the field.
"It's an honor to be here and be able to hang out with these cool kids," Brewer said. "I mean 600 underprivileged kids and we get to be here and brighten their day up. It's a great thing to do in the offseason just to keep perspective on how lucky we are to do what we do."
Said Hill, "The absolute least we can do is come out and hang out with these kids and have fun with them. That's what it's all about, baseball is supposed to be fun so we're going to have a good time hanging out on the field with them."