Ask 9-year-old Zachary Hull how he did in his last Tempe South Little League game, and the outfielder/catcher is quick to forgo any mention of a 2-for-3 night at the plate or throwing out a baserunner trying to stretch a single into a double. Instead, expect to hear about that
Ask 9-year-old Zachary Hull how he did in his last Tempe South Little League game, and the outfielder/catcher is quick to forgo any mention of a 2-for-3 night at the plate or throwing out a baserunner trying to stretch a single into a double. Instead, expect to hear about that last game's final score and his Monsoon team's latest win-loss record. The youngster's team-first mentality is ironic, since it's reminiscent of the overall group effort that went into Tempe's Willie Bloomquist Field.
Hull joined his Monsoon teammates and the seven other Tempe Minors teams on Saturday to help unveil the 41st "Diamonds Back" field in the D-backs and Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation's youth field-building program, supported by APS. Just weeks after the big league ballclub debuted Erubiel Durazo Field in Douglas, Ariz., the renovated Willie Bloomquist Field similarly represented a community investment in youth sports programs exceeding $10 million since its overall inception in 2000.
The latest "Diamonds Back" field features a new scoreboard, fencing, windscreens and trees funded by the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, while the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community funded the irrigation system, sod and other general field and practice field updates. With additional support provided by the City of Tempe and local contractors and businesses, the D-backs Camper Fund -- led by several members of the annual D-backs Fantasy Camp -- also played a major role in Willie Bloomquist Field, raising funds to assist the D-backs with efforts to promote interest in youth baseball and softball since 2008.
"When we put a player's name up on one of these fields, we have to make sure that it is a player who truly has made an impact on the fan base and the community -- and one that we are going to be proud of forever," said D-backs president & CEO Derrick Hall. "There is no doubt that Willie is the right role model for all of these residents here in Tempe. When I think back to players that have worn a D-backs uniform, one stands out. And that's Willie Bloomquist."
Bloomquist's ties to the area are strong. In addition to playing for the D-backs from 2011-13 -- which included filling an important role on the '11 National League West championship club, his lone playoff appearance in a 14-year MLB career -- Saturday's field dedication was in the shadow of nearby Arizona State University, where the Sun Devil Hall of Famer earned 1999 Pac-10 Player of the Year honors and posted a collegiate batting average of .394 over three seasons.
"Usually, when you mention these D-backs fields, you think of All-Stars, Cy Young Award winners or [World Series] Most Valuable Players," said the former utility player. "I never had those accolades, however, I never wanted to be remembered as that type of player. How I hope to be remembered is [as] somebody who played the game the right way, had the respect of his teammates, fans and friends, and went about his business the right way. So every time a future generation gets to play on this field and asks, 'Who's that guy?' when they see my name on the scoreboard, my hope and my desire is that someone will say that's a guy that represented the people that weren't the most athletic or the most talented. He was the guy that worked the hardest and wouldn't be outdone."
Crediting his late father, Bill, former ASU baseball head coach Pat Murphy and former D-backs manager Kirk Gibson as positive influences on his life, Bloomquist told the young Tempe ballplayers in attendance -- who were all decked out in D-backs-branded uniforms as part of the franchise's Give Back jersey program -- that the national pastime can give back in unexpected ways if you let it.
"It wasn't too long ago that I was in your shoes, and my father taught me how to play the game the right way," said Bloomquist. "This game was never meant to be easy. It's a game of failure. It's a game of humbling experiences, and can be downright cruel sometimes. But I promise you, this game builds character if you go about it the right way.
"When you play on this field, I hope that you will respect the game, respect your teammates, respect your coaches, respect the uniform and, most importantly, respect yourself."
Josh Greene is director of publications for the D-backs.