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D-backs take time to visit fans south of the border

HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- The Major League Baseball schedule showed an off-day for the D-backs on Thursday, but the team's efforts in spreading its brand globally and reaching out to its Hispanic fan base never takes a break. So a contingent of club executives headed south of the border to Hermosillo, Phoenix's sister city in the state of Sonora for a full slate of activities.

The day began at the inaugural International Congress of Sports Science, where D-backs legend Luis Gonzalez joined Senior Vice President of Communications Josh Rawitch for a presentation to more than 400 university students looking to work in the world of sports.

Gonzalez focused on the key characteristics a player looks for in a team trainer -- trust and communications -- while Rawitch explained the need for a strong work ethic, passion for the sport and accountability.

"It was extremely gratifying to meet so many students from around the country and see how focused they are on reaching their own goals of working in the world of sports," said Rawitch. "Many of them were huge baseball fans and D-backs fans, so hearing straight from their favorite team and a legend like Gonzo seemed to really hit home."

Gonzalez, Rawitch and Spanish-language broadcaster Richard Saenz were pinch-hitting for D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall, who was attending the quarterly Owner's Meetings in New York. But Hall's perpetual message of focusing on the community remained the same, as Gonzalez stressed the importance of using the D-backs as a platform to help change lives.

The trio then set out to practice what it preached, hosting a free clinic for 60 local youths at Lomas de Madrid Park along with members of the Sports Institute of Hermosillo. Gonzalez met a pair of D-backs fans with a special connection to the former big league slugger -- a man who had asked his wife to marry him by putting the engagement ring into the tag of a jersey of her favorite player -- Gonzalez.

The couple married, had two children who participated in the clinic, and recently visited Chase Field where they loaded up on D-backs gear that they proudly wore Thursday afternoon.

"Today was a great reminder of the impact that we can have with some of our simplest actions," said Gonzalez. "Hopefully by spending some time with these young kids, they learn some of the fundamentals of the game but also take home the messages we shared with them about being a good teammate, respecting their parents and coaches and the importance of a good education."

The D-backs contingent also met with local sports officials about expanding the club's presence in the city of one million inhabitants, where there is already a ticket office for D-backs games and a field dedicated by the franchise several years ago. Over the past year, team executives have made five visits to Mexico including three to Hermosillo. The team also recently signed Mexican pitcher Oliver Perez to a two-year contract.

"We always want to find a way to reach out to our fans in a meaningful way, not only in Phoenix and throughout Arizona, but around the world," said Saenz, who serves as an advisor to Hall in the Hispanic community. "We have made some great strides in the past several years, but there is a lot more that we can and will do in the years to come."

Read More: Arizona Diamondbacks