D-backs expand Give Back Jersey program in Tucson, Marana
Seven Little Leagues to benefit from club's efforts
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Pitchers and catchers don't technically report to Spring Training until Thursday, but in southern Arizona, dozens of players were already in full uniform as the D-backs announced the expansion of the Give Back Jersey program to seven Little Leagues in Tucson and Marana.
The visit to Curtis Park -- one of two stops in Tucson on Wednesday -- was part of the team's continued efforts to spread the love of the game around the state.
"Today is so important to us because we know how many fans live in the Tucson area," said D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall, who headed up the delegation along with special assistants Luis Gonzalez and J.J. Putz and Hillsboro manager Shelley Duncan. "We are not called the Phoenix Diamondbacks. We are the Arizona Diamondbacks because this team belongs to the entire state."
The morning began at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, where the D-backs presented a check for $76,000, a Grand Slam Grant that will help build an indoor play space for more than 330 kids in the Early Childhood Education program.
"This gift from the D-backs really transforms our ability to finish the second-floor project," said Tucson JCC CEO Todd Rockoff. "The Diamondbacks have such a powerful brand and a long tradition here in Tucson. Their vision and leadership really made all the difference in the world."
Following the check presentation, Hall and Putz each read a story to the youngsters.
"Today was just another great example of the D-backs' reach," said Putz. "Being able to visit the JCC and help fund a great, fun space for these kids to play is very special."
The grant for the Tucson JCC will impact many young children while the Give Back Jersey program extends its reach to those up to 14 years old. Among the leagues benefiting from the new uniforms are Flowing Wells Continental, Freedom Little League, Frontier Little League, Los Ninos Little League, Southwestern Foothills, Randolph Little League and Continental Ranch Little League of Marana.
Duncan, a Tucson resident who played youth baseball and went on to become the University of Arizona's all-time home run leader before reaching the big leagues, operates the Tucson Youth Baseball Association in town. His father, also a Tucson resident, now serves as a special assistant to the general manager.
All told, more than 35,000 players and coaches around the state will wear D-backs jerseys in the upcoming season, thanks to the team and its partners: Fry's Food Stores, Tide and Western Refining. Over the past two years, those entities have donated more than $1.5 million to the unique program.
"A lot of our kids that play baseball and softball look to the D-backs as the team they root for," said Little League District 5 administrator Carl Thompson. "There's such a rich history and a lot of fans here. The support helps them, not only financially, but to know that the D-backs embrace them. It's a considerable weight lifted so that we can focus on things like field maintenance and make sure we're giving back more to our community."