D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall, general manager Dave Stewart and senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson did their best John Wayne impersonations, and several players, most garbed in blue jeans, cowboy hats and boots, mingled with the fans.
The D-backs celebrated their 10th Annual Evening on the Diamond benefiting the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation on Thursday with a western-themed celebration that included auctions, awards, the creation of a new scholarship and a concert by country singer Cole Swindell for more than 800 attendees at Chase Field.
"We are a little biased, but we think this is one of the premier events in The Valley," Hall said. "We are at a record level and we continue to grow in table and seats sold and the money that is being raised for the community, in particular youth sports."
Following the silent auction, Edward J. Robson was honored with the Lee T. Hanley Community Leadership Award. Luis Gonzalez, a senior at Maryvale High School, represented his school as a winner of the "Chase Your Dreams," program, an initiative designed to help high school baseball and softball programs. Gonzalez was later joined on the stage by former Major Leaguer Luis Gonzalez, a member of the club's front office, and named the recipient of the first Luis Gonzalez Heart of Champion College Scholarship.
"We play this game because we love doing what we do," said Gonzalez, who was unaware a scholarship was being named after him. "But even with all the hits and strikeouts and memories that we make on the field, it's the impact that you make on the people off the field that matters. This is an incredible honor."
The winners of the Grand Slam Awards, an initiative that grants up to $100,000 for recipients, were these: Ability 360, Chicanos Por La Causa, Make-A-Wish Arizona, Native American Connections/Home Base Youth Services, Neighborhood Ministries, Phoenix Rescue Mission, Resurrection Street Ministry, Sojourner Center, Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, The Centers for Rehabilitation, The Society of St. Vincent De Paul and Vista College Preparatory. The awards were also renamed the Ken Kendrick Grand Slam Awards in honor of the club's owner.
The event raised $1.8 million and the D-backs awarded more than $1 million to the organizations.
"One thing the Diamondbacks do is reach out to the community, not only through the charitable arm of the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, but also treating fans to experiences like this and treating everybody like family," Collmenter said. "To be up close and have this experience with everybody here is incredible. It's good for us and good for the fans."
Collmenter was joined by a group of teammates that included Yasmany Tomas, Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Jake Lamb and David Peralta. Manager Chip Hale was also in attendance.
"The guys have a blast and it's the third year in a row that we have had a country theme because the feedback from the guys has been so strong," Hall said. "They are country fans and it's amazing to see how they stay until the very end."