MEXICO CITY, Mexico -- When Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton took office in 2012, he made it clear that the future of his city is inextricably linked to that of Mexico, and on numerous occasions, he has hosted trade missions to visit Arizona's southern neighbors.
So when Stanton asked D-backs president & CEO Derrick Hall if the team would take part in a delegation to Mexico City with nearly two dozen key city and community leaders, the D-backs jumped at the opportunity.
Hall's special assistant, the legendary Luis Gonzalez, joined D-backs senior vice president of communications Josh Rawitch on the four-day trip that included meetings with elected officials, tourism operators, business icons and philanthropic leaders. The trip did not disappoint.
"It was a grand slam from a business perspective and in helping build relationships," said Stanton. "We heard honesty from the people about the challenges we face, but that's short-term. Relationships are long-term, and we were really able to build value for the people of our city."
Those relationships extended to the D-backs, who met with the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Wayne, as well as two senators, Claudia Pavlovich and Ninfa Salinas and the new Consul General for Mexico based in Phoenix, Roberto Rodriguez Hernandez.
But the most enjoyable part of the trip may have been when the D-backs contingent visited Chapultepec Park -- the city's version of New York's Central Park -- where Gonzalez handed out D-backs caps, foam fingers and other memorabilia to anyone he saw wearing another team's logo.
One particular father did not want to swap out his Yankees cap, but the rest of his family parted ways with Gonzalez decked out in D-backs gear and with smiles on their faces.
"Derrick Hall often tells people that even though we may not win over someone who already has a favorite team, we want their kids to be D-backs fans," said Gonzalez. "We took that same approach in Mexico, and really enjoyed meeting so many people around the city."
Gonzalez was a big attraction for the media, too, as he and Rawitch took part in a news conference Friday with Mayor Stanton, City Councilman Michael Nowakowski, Phoenix Suns president Jason Rowley and David Rousseau, who is the host committee chair of the 2015 Super Bowl, to be held in Phoenix.
"Our goal is to position the D-backs as Mexico's team and to spread our brand globally," said Rawitch, who along with Hall, Gonzalez and broadcaster Richard Saenz, have made three trips to Mexico in the past seven months. "While we feel very close to our friends in Hermosillo, Sonora, this was a unique opportunity to visit the capital and speak directly to city leaders, the media and tour operators who can drive more fans to visit Chase Field."
To that end, a popular topic throughout the trip was the new Sonoran-style hot dog offered at Chase Field beginning this season. In addition, many local media outlets were pleased to learn that the D-backs recently completed a deal to air their weekend games on six different radio stations throughout the state of Sonora.
Among the others in the Mayor's delegation were city manager David Cavazos, chief of staff Paul Blue, greater Phoenix chamber of commerce president Todd Sanders, greater Phoenix economic council president & CEO Barry Broome, Arizona-Mexico commission executive director Margie Emmermann, chief of spinal surgery at the Barrow Neurological Institute, Dr. Nicholas Theodore, and VP of community relations for St. Joseph's Foundation, Kathleen Norton, all of whom extolled the virtues of the sixth-largest city in the United States.
"If Phoenix was a stock on the New York stock exchange, I would tell you to buy now," Mayor Stanton told a gathering of dozens of key executives from major companies based in Mexico City. "We are a city on the rise."
That was the case, literally, for Gonzalez and Rawitch, who met with Promexico CEO Ernesto de Lucas on the 51st floor of Torre Mayor, the top story of the tallest building in the country and therefore, the highest building in the world, as Mexico City sits at an elevation of 7,350 feet. The meeting resulted in Lucas planning a trip to Phoenix for a dozen CEOs from Mexico's top corporations, where they will take in a game at Chase Field and discuss future corporate partnership opportunities.
And while the trip was mostly business, the D-backs' delegation also took the time to visit a few key sites, including explorer Hernan Cortes' house in Coyoacan and dinner at Hacienda de las Morales, a 400-year-old building that once formed part of the land conceded to Cortes by the King of Spain. The trip ended Saturday morning with a visit to the studio of world renowned sculptor and artist, Sebastian.
"We always enjoy coming to Mexico, but this trip was really something special," said Gonzalez. "We are so grateful for our fans in Mexico and our Mexican-American fans in Arizona, so we will always try to find new ways to spend time with them whenever we can."