PHOENIX -- The first pitch of Opening Day is thrown sometime around 7 p.m. MT, but the day actually begins much earlier. Much, much, much earlier.To document an Opening Day in the Life of the D-backs, you have to be all in, which requires arriving when the process actually begins.And
PHOENIX -- The first pitch of Opening Day is thrown sometime around 7 p.m. MT, but the day actually begins much earlier. Much, much, much earlier.
To document an Opening Day in the Life of the D-backs, you have to be all in, which requires arriving when the process actually begins.
And that process begins before the sun comes up, around 4:30 a.m.
The day begins with live shots from the morning news crews and ends with what the organization hopes is a win for the home team. The latter didn't happen for the D-backs last Monday, but so much else went off without a hitch. Interviews were conducted. Food was sampled. The hard-working front-office staff was saluted. Players were cheered. Baseball was celebrated.
And we were there for all of it, sunrise to sundown. A look behind the scenes of a Major League Opening Day reveals there's more to it than what's happening on the field, and it gives a perspective we don't normally see. Here is a glimpse into a 17-hour day at Chase Field, start to finish, with highlights that include champagne toasts, cranky felines and the comedic stylings of a world-famous rock musician and a Hall of Fame pitcher. All in a day's work.
4:45 a.m.: News crews descend upon Chase Field
A staple of Opening Day, no matter what the city, is the influx of morning news crews that conduct their live hits from the ballpark. This is a favorite of front offices. There's no better time to get a city excited for Opening Day than at the crack of dawn, before the sun rises, when people are tuned in while getting ready for work.
This requires an early arrival to the ballpark for much of the front office. With 150 live shots scheduled between 4:30 a.m. and first pitch (slated for 6:40 p.m.), someone has to be there to let them in, right? Enter the media relations staff and select members of the security team.
6:45 a.m.: D-backs introduce new food items
Opening Day isn't just about baseball. It is also about food, and the D-backs used the early-morning hours of Opening Day to begin the process of tantalizing fans with new mouth-watering culinary items available at Chase Field this season.
Among the more eye-popping options: the Cheeseburger Dog, made from chargrilled hamburgers ground with chopped smoked bacon, dill pickles, green onion and cheddar cheese. The dog is breaded with milk and seasoned flour and deep-fried, and topped with more smoked bacon (because, why not?), lettuce, tomato and secret sauce.
The D-backs also added an Arizona Farms Grilled Cheese Cart this year, which features three options: The Arizona Cheese with Arizona Colby; the Pit-Smoked Cheese with smoked BBQ brisket and Arizona Cheddar; and the Southwest Cheese with Pico de Gallo and Arizona Pepper Jack.
Gif: Chase Field food
Levy Restaurants executive chef Steve Tilder, who arrived at the ballpark at 3:45 a.m. and conducted nine interviews between 5:45 and 9, said they were preparing 500 grilled cheese sandwiches (each one takes four minutes to prepare) ahead of first pitch.
"Hopefully, we'll sell them all," Tilder said.
Update: The grilled cheese, according to the D-backs, "easily sold out." They also sold 230 Cheeseburger Dogs, 282 Churro Dogs and 75 D-bat Dogs. Still, the basic hot dog still ruled, with 4,568 purchased.
7:15 a.m.: Puppypalooza!
Bringing dogs to the ballpark has become a staple of the ballpark experience in the past several years throughout baseball. The D-backs have taken the concept one step further, designating a section of their ballpark as the PetSmart Patio to give humans and their pups a space to: 1. take in a ballgame (if you're the human); and 2. sniff other dogs (if you're not the human).
Every Sunday home game will be a designated Dog Days of Summer, where families can bring their dogs to a D-backs game and have a space for their pups to roam (somewhat) freely. The patio, which has an indoor and outdoor section, offers 30 suites, big enough for four humans and one dog.
Gif: Petsmart dog patio
Dairy-free, veterinarian-approved doggie ice cream -- strawberry, and vanilla swirl, topped with kibble -- will be served. Also, the D-backs have partnered with the Arizona Humane Society to launch a pet adoption program, right from the ballpark -- a first in the big leagues. Fans can leave Chase Field with an adopted dog the same day.
7:45 a.m.: Fishing at the pool
His official title is senior vice president of content and communications, but as Josh Rawitch revealed in the wee hours of Opening Day, the job can be a balancing act -- literally.
Meeting a news crew in center field for yet another live hit, Rawitch noticed a moth floating in the swimming pool and immediately jumped into action. Well ... no, he didn't actually jump. He did, however, lean as far as humanly possible over the pool without falling in.
Final score: Rawitch 1, drowned moth 0.
Gif: D-backs show off pool
"Free Willy!" Rawitch exclaimed proudly.
So we asked -- is there anything you don't do?
"Ah, it's just part of the gig," he said.
8:30 a.m.: Toasting a new season
Before the chaos of Opening Day reached its peak midday, team president Derrick Hall brought the staff together for a ritual that has become a yearly tradition -- the Opening Day champagne toast.
"It's a toast to say thank you," Hall said. "It's a reminder to them to treat everyone well, work hard and get ready for the season ahead."
Glasses of bubbly lined two tables at the front of the room. Most of it was the real stuff, with about 10 glasses of cider on one end for the non-drinkers.
Gif: D-backs toast
Hall began his address to the staff with a pep talk about center fielder A.J. Pollock, who is facing missing most of the season after a right elbow injury he incurred during an exhibition game over the weekend.
"As soon as it happened, I felt it," Hall said to the staff. "But we will be fine. There is so much depth."
9:30 a.m.: Catching up with a D-backs treasure
Luis Gonzalez, owner of the most iconic moment in D-backs history -- the game-winning hit in the clincher of the 2001 World Series -- is now a top-ranking exec with the club. And he has a sweet office to boot.
"Gonzo," as he's best known, is a stone's throw from chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, in the high-rent district of the D-backs' floor of offices. A huge mural of Chase Field adorns Gonzo's back wall, and off to the side is a sign that reads "No media allowed," a humorous coincidence considering Gonzo was known as one of the most media-friendly humans in history during his playing days.
Of his plush office surroundings, Gonzo remarked, "It's nice. The door is always open. Everyone can make themselves at home."
2 p.m.: Hall tells Scully tales
Sitting in the dugout participating in a round of the Edward Jones Chatting Cage, Hall was asked: Who is your favorite broadcaster? Hall, who for years was a member of the Dodgers' front office before joining the D-backs, acknowledged his long-standing affection for arguably the most heralded announcer in history -- Vin Scully.
The two have spent many an afternoon on the golf course. Even there, with the mics off, Scully is ever the gentleman. After one terrible shot, Hall recalled the worst admonishment Scully could muster: "Oh no ... dirty name."
5 p.m.: World's most famous cat turns four
There was a little bit of a ruckus coming from the dugout in the minutes leading up to first pitch. At Chase Field, that can mean only one thing: Grumpy Cat is in the house.
Originally named "Tardar Sauce," Grumpy Cat, the national phenomenon and internet sensation nicknamed for her permanently sour facial expression, celebrated her fourth birthday on Opening Day. She made the rounds, hobnobbed with celebrities, and was on full view for the fans behind the D-backs dugout in a scene so rousing all that was missing was the music to the opening of "The Lion King."
Gif: Grumpy Cat Gif
Grumpy Cat has to be used to the fame by now, having done the national talk show circuit and featured numerous times in prominent publications from coast to coast. Still, she seems unfazed by the attention, even if she comes off as a little ... cranky.
"Ask yourself: what you did with your life when you were 4?" said one well-placed observer. "And then, look at Grumpy."
6:15 p.m.: Pregame ceremonies
The usual suspects were enthusiastically cheered during team introductions -- perennial All-Star Paul Goldschmidt, starting pitcher Patrick Corbin and, of course, staff ace Zack Greinke. But one of the loudest ovations was for someone who may not even play this year -- Pollock, scheduled for elbow surgery the next morning.
Gif: AJ Pollock is introduced
In addition to team introductions, several players received hardware for their stellar performances in 2015. Pollock received his National League Gold Glove Award, while Goldschmidt completed the trifecta, receiving a Gold Glove, Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger and a trophy for being the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year.
Gif: Paul Goldschmidt, AJ Pollock's awards
8 p.m.: A rocker who loves his D-backs
Some of us appreciate Alice Cooper for his long and illustrious career as a shock rocker. Still others remember him best for engaging press-pass-waving Wayne and Garth in a highbrow conversation about French missionaries and explorers in the cult hit "Wayne's World."
All we know is we're still not worthy of being in the presence of such a slice of musical greatness, but if he's game, so are we -- and oh, was he on Opening Day.
Cooper, one of Arizona's most famous celebs, grew up in Detroit and is, by extension, an American League fan first, with his loyalty to the D-backs a very, very close second. When the D-backs were awarded the franchise prior to the expansion season in 1998, Cooper's only hope was that they would be an NL team, so that he could root for one in each league -- the D-backs in the NL, and the Tigers in the AL. He got his wish.
Asked to reveal which profession a 10-year-old Cooper would pick -- rocker, or Tiger -- Cooper picked, unequivocally, the latter.
"When I was 10 years old, I would have said, 'I'm going to be the left fielder for the Detroit Tigers,'" Cooper said. "Al Kaline's in right field, Charlie Maxwell's in center field and I'm in left field."
8:15 p.m.: Randy Johnson mulls mullets
Hall of Famer Randy Johnson was known for many things as a player. His blazing fastball. His intimidating presence. His ability, simply, to be awesome. And his mullet.
So, we asked Johnson to rank other amazing mullets, back in their day: Jaromir Jagr, Andre Agassi and Jeff Nelson.
Gif: Randy Johnson holds Grumpy Cat
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Nelson finished last.
"You have to look at the evolution of mullets," Johnson said. "So, you're going back to the '80s. Nelson, sorry ... yours was a '90s mullet. You gotta go."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.