HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- Much like the fans in attendance at Thursday night's 18-inning Caribbean Series final didn't want the championship game to end, the contingent of D-backs executives on site in Hermosillo were sad to see yet another trip to their sister city come to a conclusion.
Yet, with Team Mexico capturing the title and tens of thousands heading home happy, so, too were the D-backs, who accomplished quite a bit during the goodwill trip that leads into a busy weekend at Chase Field with the Subway D-backs Fan Fest and inaugural Race Against Cancer.
"Hermosillo was the center of the baseball world, and for us, this is like a second home, so we wanted to make sure we found time to take part in the festivities," said D-backs president & CEO Derrick Hall. "From helping the kids in the community to strengthening our business relationships and getting a chance to remind fans about the upcoming World Baseball Classic, this was an extremely productive visit."
Special assistant to Hall and D-backs legend Luis Gonzalez arrived early in the week and conducted a clinic with some of the top young players in the city on Monday, as the D-backs partnered with the Arizona Mexico Commission to put on the event. Each child took home a D-backs hat and T-shirt while Gonzalez took home some great memories.
"These kids were very talented, and for us to not only teach them a few things but share our passion for the D-backs was really important," said Gonzalez, who once played for Tijuana's entry in the Caribbean Series in 1990. "Whether it was at the clinic, at the new ballpark or even at our hotel, there's a certain amount of pride that we get when we see people wearing a D-backs hat around Mexico."
Gonzalez threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday's game while Hall was given that honor prior to Wednesday night's game. However, after taking the mound, he handed the ball over to a young D-backs fan who just happened to be the son of D-backs Spanish-language broadcaster Oscar Soria, a local legend in Hermosillo.
Prior to the game on Wednesday, the D-backs hosted a news conference at Estadio Sonora, the new ballpark that was inaugurated for the Caribbean Series after the D-backs helped consult on the planning and construction. In front of a packed house of nearly 75 members of the media, the team was able to share its passion for Hermosillo while reminding fans about the upcoming opportunity to see Team Mexico face the D-backs in a World Baseball Classic exhibition on March 5, followed by official Classic games on March 7-9 at Chase Field and Salt River Fields.
"You could really tell how much the media was interested in the World Baseball Classic, and we know that carries over to the fans in Mexico as well," said Hall. "We expect there to be a great turnout for the games, and if the atmosphere is anything like what we saw at the Caribbean Series this week, we will all be able to say it was a tremendous success."
The D-backs' contingent -- which also included executive vice president Tom Harris, senior vice president Josh Rawitch, Spanish-language broadcaster Richard Saenz, Arizona's scout in Mexico, Derrick Bryant, and Roland Hemond, D-backs special assistant to the president/CEO -- was invited to a luncheon Thursday afternoon at the state Capitol by Enrique Mazon, owner of the Hermosillo Naranjeros. It was there that the team of executives met with Mayor Alejandro Lopez Caballero and were thanked publicly by Governor Guillermo Padres for their role in helping spread the love of baseball throughout Sonora.
The luncheon was not without surprises, as Hemond was asked to speak to the distinguished guests. Without any idea he would be addressing a crowd, Hemond deftly spoke about the franchise's long-standing relationships in Sonora before returning to his seat to rousing applause.
At the championship game, with a sellout crowd of more than 15,000 and at least 10,000 more fans outside the ballpark watching on giant television screens, the D-backs suite became a who's who of franchise history. Gonzalez was joined by fellow 2001 World Series champion Erubiel Durazo and former D-backs pitcher Elmer Dessens, while former D-backs Rodrigo Lopez, Karim Garcia, Oscar Villarreal and Edgar Gonzalez all played a role in the championship for Mexico, their second in the last three seasons.
"This is a busy time of year, with everything going on this weekend from our Race Against Cancer and annual Fan Fest, to Spring Training starting next week," said Hall, who also toured a youth field the D-backs helped fund several years ago and began conversations about carrying D-backs games on a local radio station in Sonora. "But it is so important for us to take part in goodwill trips like this, and we truly look forward to our next visit to Hermosillo."