Part 1 of 2: Exclusive Interview with Arizona Diamondbacks,
Unveiling Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Official Rawlings Baseballs.
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Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the new spring home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies: A 140-acre site that includes an 11,000-seat ballpark, 12 practice fields, Major and Minor League clubhouses, training facilities and offices for each team. And before the field in this immaculate Cactus League complex ever hosts a Major or Minor League Baseball exhibition game, it will already be considered a historic, and storied ballpark. A ballpark with hallowed grounds that have been the site of legendary stories passed from generation to generation.
In this case, it’s not the players that take the field behind those stories, not yet anyway. It’s the land on which the fields are built – land that belongs to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. It is the first Major League ballpark of any kind built on Native American land. “Two tribes, two teams, one home,” is the phrase being used on the official Salt River Fields website – a reference to the two original Pima and Maricopa tribes who’ve inhabited the surrounding area for centuries, and of course to the D-backs and Rockies teams, whose players first stepped onto the fields earlier this month when pitchers and catchers reported for spring training.
The Salt River website is full of great information in the press section. Take a look through the press kit to learn all about the original “ball courts,” the first playing fields created in the area several hundred years ago.
We could write for days to cover all the great information available about this new stadium, and the history of the land. Although that’s the big picture story, we here at BigLeagueBaseballs.com are focused on just one tiny little detail about this amazing facility, and all of the planning, engineering and development that’s gone into what will likely be considered by many to be the greatest Spring Training site in baseball. That detail of course is the Official Rawlings Commemorative Major League Baseball that’s been designed for use in all D-backs and Rockies 2011 spring training home games, in addition to all workouts, batting practices and other exhibitions.
We were a bit shocked, but thrilled when Arizona Diamondbacks vice president of communications, Shaun Rachau, reached out to us last week to inform us about that commemorative ball. Personally, I was pumped when I saw the attachment in an email – a baseball featuring one of the more unique logos I’d ever seen stamped on an Official MLB Game ball. There was no prior mention of this ball joining the special event game ball lineup for the 2011 season, so we’re also happy to see 2011 rounding into a solid year of baseball collectors.
We were even more surprised when we were not only called upon as a source for the D-backs press release about this ball, but were given the opportunity interview Graham Rossini, senior director of special projects for the D-backs, about the entire process of developing a commemorative game ball. (That interview and detailed photos will be found in the second post of this two part series.)
BigLeagueBaseballs was provided half a dozen of the baseballs, prior to their release and use this weekend in the first official exhibition game to be played at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. More on that in Part 2 as well, but first, what all of you commemorative baseball collectors have been waiting for me to stop rambling about, and officially unveil:
Indeed, this is an MLB commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig officially stamped ROMLB gamer – not to be confused with any souvenir baseballs. And all fans attending spring training games will have a chance to snag one of these babies throughout the 2011 Cactus League season. So for our ballhawks on the site, if you’re in the area, get down to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and don’t forget your gloves.
Initial thoughts? Such a unique name, with deep meaning; such a unique logo for a commemorative game ball. The logo features multiple design concepts that also represent several important points. First, the Rocky Mountains and rattle snake are combined to form one mark, representing both franchises that call the new ballpark home. But the shape, the tall, narrow logo itself, is clearly a reference to the legendary “talking stick,” which is a traditional Pima calendar stick on which carvers recorded significant events and milestones. What better way to honor the significance of this incredible facility, and the milestones of its inaugural season, game, and the fact that its the first ballpark of its kind, built on Indian land?
Facts & Figures: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
- The $100 million facility will be shared by The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
- Each team has its own office space, team shops, clubhouses, weight rooms and practice fields.
- The Rockies will occupy the first-base dugout, while the D-backs will have the third-base side.
- The stadium, which is the only Major League Spring Training facility to sit on Native American land.
- The ballpark can hold 11,000 fans: 7,000 fixed seats and a lawn area beyond the outfield walls that can seat up to 4,000.
- In a tribute to the land on which the stadium is built, some signs are done not only in English, but also in the Pima and Salt River Native American languages.
- The video scoreboard is the largest Spring Training board in baseball, measuring 24-by-48 feet and featuring a high-definition picture and LED technology.
- For kids, there is a Wiffle-ball field down the right-field line to keep them occupied during games.
- HKS Sports & Entertainment designed the ballpark, the same firm that designed Cowboy Stadium in Dallas.
- The agreement between the Rockies, D-backs and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is slated for at least an initial 25 years.
Some additional details of note regarding Salt River Fields, taken from various articles on the Diamondbacks site:
The close proximity of Salt River Fields to Chase Field allows the D-backs and their fans easy access and an opportunity to attend all Cactus League home games. It’s on about 10 miles from Chase Field, which will boost spring training attendance. “The first day tickets went on sale, Arizona sold 37,000 compared with 4,700 the first day last year at Tucson Electric Park [they're previous home].”
The inaugural game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is tomorrow (Feb. 26th, 2011) and its sold out. The Rockies and D-backs will christen the stadium together in a 1:10 p.m. MST matchup. Over 120,000 tickets have already been sold by the D-backs, it looks like they’re well on their way to breaking their Spring Training record of 136,940, set in 2002, the year after the franchise shocked the sports world by upsetting the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series.
By having a Spring Training facility to close to Chase Field, the D-backs are able to use it for rehab and year-round training. To new GM Kevin Towers, it’s a recruiting tool with free agents.
“The location is tremendous, aesthetically gorgeous,” Towers said. “I think it gives us a real advantage in signing players. I think we felt that way this winter. It gives Major League players an opportunity to really spend eight months of the year at home. A lot of these guys have a wife and kids and it’s pretty nice when you don’t have to pack and go to Spring Training.”
Join us for part 2 here, featuring the exclusive Interview with Arizona Diamondbacks special projects Graham Rossini, and the process of completing the commemorative logo for the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Official Rawlings Inaugural Season Baseballs, as well as the inside scoop on working with Rawlings to manufacture thousands of the pearly white gems for Spring Training.