D-backs' Winter Classic Party still bringing cheer

December 5th, 2019

PHOENIX -- When he looks around and sees all the children, with smiles on their faces, Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson can’t help but marvel at how far the D-backs’ Winter Classic Party has come in the 22 years since he started it.

Back then, Johnson used the contacts of the late Joe Garagiola to have a couple hundred children bussed to Chase Field, where they received a free pair of shoes.

Thursday, nearly 1,000 kids walked around the concourse at Chase Field, and they were treated not just to shoes, but also socks, a sweatshirt, a backpack and two books.

There was also a Santa Claus to take pictures with, a petting zoo put on by the Arizona Humane Society and the Phoenix Herpetological Society. The Phoenix Symphony had instruments for kids to try, and there were all sorts of other activities.

“To me it means a lot that we started it back then and it has gotten to this size now,” said Johnson, who works in the team’s front office. “It’s a special time of the year, and all these kids that are extremely young need to feel like this time of the year is special and they can feel special.”

Current pitchers Robbie Ray and Merrill Kelly were on hand to help pass out the shoes, as was President and CEO Derrick Hall and managing general partner Ken Kendrick, who makes sure never to miss this event.

Photo by: Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks

“It’s a special event for me,” Kendrick said. “I love coming to it. It of course brings back memories of Joe Garagiola, because the first group that we helped with the first Winter Classic was the charity on the reservation that he supported.”

Hall, too, has been amazed at how the event has grown through the years.

“This one always kicks off the holiday season, and it’s really about giving,” Hall said. “What’s most important is to get kids that are within the shadow of Chase Field and 10 schools to come here and be a part of our giving, but also being able to come into the stadium and experience it when no one else is here. And to know that they’re welcome here outside of just baseball games.”