D-backs Winter Classic big hit with children
Players, coaches on hand for event that included special gifts, petting zoo
PHOENIX -- This year, Paul Goldschmidt was not going to miss the D-backs Winter Classic.
"It's awesome," Goldschmidt said on Wednesday afternoon, as he stood on the outfield grass at Chase Field. "Unfortunately, I missed it the last couple years. When they told me about it early in the year, I had to put it on my schedule because it's such a great event and one of the Diamondbacks' signature events of the offseason."
For the past 16 years the D-backs have held the event and it continues to grow.
While in the past it might have been a matter of passing out free shoes and socks to underprivileged kids, the nearly 700 participants this year were treated to quite an afternoon.
Among the gifts received by the kids were polo shirts, khaki pants, sweatshirts and a backpack courtesy of the D-backs. New shoes were provided compliments of Arizona pitcher Brandon McCarthy and his wife, Amanda.
The gift bags also included a pair of books from the University of Phoenix.
Numerous D-backs players and coaches, including manager Kirk Gibson, pitchers Trevor Cahill, J.J. Putz and Josh Collmenter, catcher Miguel Montero, and outfielder Mark Trumbo joined in the fun with Goldschmidt.
"This is one of our cornerstone events and a point of pride for everybody from the front office to players and coaches," D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall said. "To get everyone out here volunteering to help put smiles on the faces of all these kids, it's really gratifying."
The event also included a petting zoo set up by the Phoenix Herpetological Society, a fitness zone, a Wiffle Ball field, and an area where kids could try out a variety of musical instruments.
"We keep building on it every year so it's not just about coming to get the shoes, the backpacks and the socks," Hall said. "Now it's about arts and crafts, making them feel welcome, interacting with our players with clinics. There's a lot going on for them. When you see the smiles on the faces of these kids running around on this field having the time of their life, it's very rewarding. "
For Trumbo, who was acquired in a trade with the Angels during last week's Winter Meetings, it was a crash course in how his new organization operates.
Trumbo even agreed to have the large boa constrictor in the petting area put around his neck for a picture.
"It's kind of imposing, especially when it starts wrapping around you," he said. "But it's fun."
Goldschmidt also held the snake around his neck, but not without some uneasy moments.
"I mean I was a little hesitant at first just as anyone would be," he said. "But I couldn't back down because there were cameras over there. It's not like if I see a snake in my backyard, I'm going to go up and start petting it."
And what about that alligator that was there?
"He had his mouth taped shut," Trumbo said with a smile. "Probably for good reason."
While he was on the field, Trumbo walked over to left field where he is expected to play every day.
"I did take a look out there," Trumbo said. "It seems pretty normal. I know that they ball travels pretty well here. I've heard the batter's eye is the best in the league so the combination of a great park to hit in and the batter's eye is pretty cool."
And so was the event, which figures to become a regular engagement for Goldschmidt.
"I've had more fun than I thought," he said. "We got to play some Wiffle Ball, pet some exotic animals, read some books, do some face painting. It's great that the Diamondbacks put on an event like this and we get to be a part of it."
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.