D-backs thrilled to join with MLB for global events
Games in Australia latest opportunity for team to spread game internationally
PHOENIX -- Giving up a couple of home dates in 2014 was not an easy thing for Derrick Hall to do, but when Major League Baseball asked the D-backs' team president and CEO if his team would be willing to open next season in Australia, Hall didn't hesitate to say yes.
It would have been a shock if Hall had answered MLB any differently, because whether it's hosting the 2011 All-Star Game, World Baseball Classic games at Chase Field in 2006 and '13, or making goodwill trips to countries like Japan or Mexico, the D-backs are all in.
"I think Major League Baseball is aware of our willingness to help spread baseball's goodwill globally," Hall said from the Dominican Republic, where he was leading an organizational goodwill visit. "When we went to Japan and Asia, we worked with MLB on those trips. We've gone to Mexico, we're in the Dominican right now. We like having an international presence and we like to spread our brand with whatever opportunity we have. So when Major League Baseball approached us and asked if we were willing to open in Australia, we were naturally ecstatic about it."
Craig Shipley, who is a special assistant to D-backs general manager Kevin Towers, was Hall's first phone call after hearing from MLB.
When Shipley made his big league debut in 1986, he became the first native Australian to play in the Major Leagues during the modern era.
"He said to jump on it, because it's a good time for baseball in Australia, and it's an even better time to be there and be the home team," Hall said. "Supposedly baseball has rebounded and is at an all-time high in Australia, so [it's good] for us to have a presence there when it comes to international signings, just like here in the Dominican or Mexico or wherever we visit. Obviously, to give back to the community, that strategy has worked well for us."
Hall, Towers and former D-backs great Luis Gonzalez led the organization's in-season trip to Japan last year, during which the team hosted clinics and participated in question-and-answer sessions as well as autograph sessions.
The team has traveled to Mexico three times in the past seven months alone -- twice to Hermosillo and once to Mexico City.
Over the past two years, the D-backs have received visits from the Japanese League team presidents of the Yomiuri Giants, Hanshin Tigers, Rakuten Eagles and Lotte Marines, as well as executives from Korean teams Nexen Heroes, SK Wyverns, LG Twins, KT Wizards and Hanwha Eagles.
This week, Hall led a group of 30 front-office employees in what is believed to be the largest contingent any team has ever sent to the Dominican Republic at one time.
The employees were chosen for their performance in the D-backs Give Back League, which is a front-office program in which employees compete to see who can have the biggest impact on the local Arizona community.
The D-backs nearly opened the 2011 season in Taiwan against the Giants, but the series did not end up happening.
"It didn't work out, but we had accepted it and would have been honored to go," Hall said.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said he is a supporter of the organization's efforts globally and is looking forward to returning to Australia.
"Last time I was there was 1985 on my honeymoon, so it will be on a little different terms this time," Gibson said. "Hopefully we'll get in a couple of good baseball games that the people there will enjoy. It's exciting and it will be cool to go back there. It's a neat country, it really is."
D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said that opening the season in that fashion will be a new experience for everyone.
"To get the opportunity to do something different is great," he said. "I think it's going to be a cool experience. I think the guys that have gone to Japan to play have said it's a lot of fun."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.