PAYSON, Ariz. -- Many of the 36 previous fields dedicated by the D-backs since 2000 have been in the Phoenix area or close by. But that's not always the case.On Friday, the organization headed nearly 100 miles north of Chase Field to dedicate a pair of fields in Payson. The
PAYSON, Ariz. -- Many of the 36 previous fields dedicated by the D-backs since 2000 have been in the Phoenix area or close by. But that's not always the case.
On Friday, the organization headed nearly 100 miles north of Chase Field to dedicate a pair of fields in Payson. The long trip didn't stop the D-backs from sending a pair of the franchise's all-time greats to attend.
Luis Gonzalez and Randy Johnson spoke at the dedication ceremony for "Randy Johnson Hall of Fame Field" and "D-backs Legends Field" at Rumsey Park. They were the 37th and 38th fields donated as part of the team's "Diamonds Back" Youth Field Building Program.
"It's special," Gonzalez said. "The state team is the Arizona Diamondbacks and for us to show the people here in Payson that we're a part of them, they're a part of us, and to extend out to be able to do this and to have a nice field like this, a facility for the kids to have a place to go at night or during the day and be able to play games and be a part of this special, unique opportunity, it's pretty unique."
The fields in Payson weren't always as nice as the two new ones, according to Debbie Castaldo, who just completed her eighth season as the D-backs' Vice President of Corporate and Community Impact.
Castaldo said Payson's Little League program has more than 600 kids, rivaling the program in more populated areas across Phoenix. When the city applied for the program two years ago, Castaldo said the two fields were unplayable.
That's not the case now after Friday morning's dedication ceremony, attended by hundreds from Payson, including Mayor Kenny Evans.
"The officials here, the kids in this community, they went nuts, frankly," Castaldo said. "The opportunity to have two legends come to their community, to have two fields where these kids will play and learn the legacy of baseball, meant the world to this community and they expressed that to us."
The D-backs have provided children across the state with quality facilities thanks to support from Arizona Public Service, which has partnered with the team for donations since 2001, and charitable contributions from current and former players.
Both Gonzalez and Johnson, the only two players to have their numbers retired in franchise history, have participated in the program before. Gonzalez dedicated "Luis Gonzalez Field" in Tempe in 2005. Johnson, a 2015 inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame, dedicated "Randy Johnson Field" in Phoenix in 2001.
"Really excited to be a part of something like this, be a part of the community and be affiliated with the Diamondbacks to have a field here for the town of Payson," Johnson said. "I know how important that is for the youth."
Jake Rill is a reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix.