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D-backs dedicated to growing community initiatives

In 2014, club outfitted over 20,000 Little Leaguers, rebuilt fields, donated to schools

PHOENIX -- With all the big numbers being thrown around in Major League Baseball during the hot stove season, here's one to keep in mind when it comes to the Arizona Diamondbacks: $40 million.

Since their inaugural season in 1998, that is the amount of money that the D-backs have given out through all of their community-related initiatives.

A big number, to be sure, but one on which they are not planning to rest. 

"I cannot wait until we get to $50 million now," D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall said. "It won't be long, because we're at an accelerated pace where we're giving away between $4 million and $5 million a year."

Hall made that remark during a break from listening to the finalists for the team's Grand Slam Awards. The D-backs annually award the grants after an extensive process that concludes with presentations.

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"Each year, we try to give away anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000, and we start with hundreds of applications," Hall said. "Our employees go through them, our leadership team goes through them, our foundation board looks at them in narrowing them down. It's an emotional and rewarding process that we go through every year. A lot of it is heartbreaking, and yet some of it is just so motivating when you see the impact that people are having on hunger, on homelessness, on education. "

The club added the D-backs Give Back Jersey Program last year where they outfitted 30 Little Leagues, which included over 20,000 players and coaches, with D-backs jerseys and caps.

This year, they are looking to expand to 50 leagues, including 30,000 players and coaches.

"It's been so well received, and not only so the kids can be on the D-backs team now, which they always wanted," Hall said. "But more importantly, uniforms are the largest expense for leagues. We saved some leagues from going under, while others were able to use the money they would have spent on jerseys and caps [toward] other things like waiving initiation fees or redoing their fields or rebuilding their concession stands. It's a program that we're going to want to continue to grow while we have this momentum, and hopefully it will be a footprint on the whole state."

Video: LAD@ARI: La Russa discusses D-backs Give Back program

Next month, Hall gets to perform one of his favorite duties as president/CEO when he calls certain fans to let them know that they have been awarded a Michael Wogan D-backs Season Ticket Scholarship.

The program, which started during the economic recession of 2008, provides D-backs fans who have suffered financial hardship with lower bowl season tickets. Fans can fill out applications for the program, and some of the packages not only include tickets, but parking passes and food vouchers.

"What this program is about is making these individuals who are either coming across hard times or are having difficult circumstances that don't allow them to be able to afford tickets to become part of our family," Hall said. "That's what we consider our season ticket holders -- family. And to provide them with the same opportunity as others who can afford it is very rewarding for us."

The Diamonds Back Field Building Program has built over 30 fields throughout Arizona. The D-backs ask players to contribute to the building of the field, and in return, the field is named after the player.

"It takes the expense away from municipalities or regions of the state and provides a place for kids to play, get them off the streets and get them playing baseball or softball, so that they will be participants and fans for life," Hall said.

Video: D-backs dedicate field to Yarnell Hill Fire heroes

The D-backs School Challenge is in its third year, with the team partnering with the University of Phoenix to annually provide 30 schools with $5,000 apiece. Schools apply for the funds, which can be used for things like improving technology, athletics or supplies.

So while 2014 did not go the way the organization wanted on the field, the D-backs are determined to make sure that it does not lessen their positive impact on the community.

"We are committed to being positive and active members of the Arizona community, and we want fans to know that they can feel proud of us and that we're going to do everything we can to help," Hall said. "Whether it's a good season or bad season on the field, we're going to continue to do more for the community. We have an ownership group that doesn't put a dime in their pocket, they put it all in the product on the field, the facilities that we play in, or the community that we're a part of."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.
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