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Back to the Future...

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Currently debating whether to go to the D-backs Fan Fest on February 24th at Chase Field. It sounds like it might be fun. Obviously, it's intended mostly as a sales opportunity - single-game tickets go on sale that morning - but there's also some other stuff that might be of interest:

  • Autograph sessions with select D-backs players
  • Q&A sessions with D-backs players, broadcasters and front office personnel, hosted by and broadcast live on KTAR
  • KTAR "You Make The Call" play-by-play booth
  • Diamondbacks Foundation "Yard Sale" featuring D-backs and baseball memorabilia
  • New D-backs gear at the Team Shop

I do note one thing: each autograph session "requires a $5 donation to the Diamondbacks Foundation". It appears the Diamondbacks are unclear on the definition of "donation": let's ask Google to help them, shall we? "A voluntary gift (as of money or service or ideas) made to some worthwhile cause." So, if it's "required", it's hardly a "donation", is it? As a mis-use of the English language, this is right up there with TicketBastard and their "service fees" - which include charging you for the privilege of printing out your own tickets, with your own paper and ink.

This may seem petty, but I should say, I've no problem at all with the cost - it's a damn sight less than the ExploitationFest signings at the North Phoenix Baptist Church, and for a good cause to boot. I just wonder why can't they be less mealy-mouthed and say, "Each session costs $5, which goes to the Diamondbacks Foundation"? Or since it's a donation, does it mean I get to claim that Jose Valverde 'graph back on my taxes? ;-) It could also prove counter-productive. If no figure had been "suggested", I'd probably have been prepared to spring $10 a pop without a problem. But since $5 is now "required", you can be sure that's all they're going to get.

Anyway, my cunning plan to get to the FanFest involves a trip to the Renaissance Festival with Mrs. SnakePit [who used to be in the SCA - though still had the good sense to stay in hotel rooms, rather than painstakingly re-created medieval hovels] this weekend. And if I go to that, I can then make Bambi eyes, sniffle a bit, and get her to come downtown on the 24th to my event. Bwah-hah-hah! Though actually, I did quite enjoy our last trip to the RenFest, a couple of years back. [But if I admit that, there go the Martyr Points] On the other hand, Mrs. SnakePit might enjoy the FanFest too, though I'm never sure quite how much she enjoys baseball, and how much she considers it her wifely duty...

In the comments on the last post, Shoewizard speculated on when we might see the Big Unit makes his return in Sedona Red. The home opener on April 9th vs. the Rockies seems like it might be the choice at the moment. That would be a week after Opening Day, and ties in with reports that he'll be about 7-10 days behind the other pitchers when they report to camp at the end of this week. However, starting on that day would probably rule him out of pitching on the 16th or 17th of April, which will be Gonzo's first-ever appearance at Chase Field as an enemy. You know Johnson wants to pitch against his old pal, with whom he traded pleasant banter in the dugout on many occasions... However, there will be plenty of opportunities over the course of the season, so my instinct is for April 9th, all being well.

As noted, Baseball America published their top prospect list for the D'backs. Here's the top 20, along with the lists from John Sickels at Minor League Ball the top 20, as a comparison [note: all three include Ross Ohlendorf, since they pre-date the Randy Johnson trade]:

    Baseball America  John Sickels
    ================  ============    ============
 1. Justin Upton      Upton           C.Gonzalez
 2. Chris Young       Young           Upton
 3. Carlos Gonzalez   C.Gonzalez      Montero
 4. Alberto Callaspo  Montero         Young
 5. Miguel Montero    Callaspo        Smith
 6. Micah Owings      Owings          Owings
 7. Mark Reynolds     Anderson        Danny Richar
 8. Dustin Nippert    Parra           Callaspo
 9. Tony Pena         Nippert         Carter
10. Ross Ohlendorf    Brown           Hankerd
11. Brett Anderson    Hankerd         Doug Slaten
12. Emilo Bonifacio   Reynolds        Bonifacio
13. Alberto Gonzalez  Bonifacio       Ohlendorf
14. Gerardo Parra     Carter          Reynolds
15. Greg Smith        Matt Torra      Nippert
16. Cyle Hankerd      Hector Ambriz   Brown
17. Chris Carter      Javier Brito    Rahl
18. Chris Rahl        A. Gonzalez     Matt Elliott
19. Brooks Brown      Steven Jackson  Pena
20. Brian Barden      Ohlendorf       A. Gonzalez

If anyone has links to any more lists, let us have 'em, and I'll try to come up with some kind of consensus top twenty based on the various selections. There seems to be general agreement on most of the top ten, though I still find it hard to put Upton as high as these lists do, until he starts to live up to his promise a bit more. But I do appreciate that he's still incredibly young, and making the transition from high school to professional baseball is something which would tax anyone. No such excuses in 2007 though, so he needs to start delivering on that potential - and justifying that fat bank account, provided to him courtesy of the Diamondbacks.

I think Nick Piecoro was a bit taken aback by the vitriolic reaction in some quarters to his promotion of the young D-backs - check out some of the comments after the piece. He's fired off a spirited defense in his blog: "Are there questions about this team? Sure. But it doesn't take much imagination, hope and optimism to envision the Diamondbacks making a real run at a playoff spot. It's too bad that so many fans are already closing the blinds on those rays of hope." Makes sense to me: now is the time of year when even D-Rays fans enjoy a spirit of spring promise. Plus, we have a lot more to look forward to than them.

Basically, the question comes down to, are you a Diamondbacks fan or not? Because, to me, supporting "my" team is not a transient thing, to be discarded over a change in colors or the departure of a favorite player. Heaven knows, I may not agree with every move management makes, on or off the field, but it would take a hell of a lot more to make me adopt the attack-dog mentality seen from some quarters. To me, a section of fandom has taken possibly legitimate gripes and blown them out of all proportion. I suspect certain people would still be hyper-critical of management, if we traded Tony Clark for Johan Santana, straight up.

If things ever got that bad, I could no longer claim to be a fan at all, and would just walk away, rather than become one of the "nattering nabobs of negativity", to borrow Spiro Agnew's famous phrase. I'm not sure how certain people can manage the doublethink necessary to maintain such an attitude. I can certainly understand some qualms, but people seem to be getting fired up about all the wrong things. The change in colors, for example: claims of "tradition" seem laughable, for a team that played its first game less than nine years ago. But I suppose, this is a state where anything that pre-dates World War II is revered as an ancient monument! [Given the Scottish house I grew up in was built in 1815, I'm less than impressed...]

Still, anyone refusing to attend games because of a misplaced fondness for purple (or equally misplaced loyalty to the lavish ways of Jerry "Spend! Spend! Spend!" Colangelo) is going to miss a lot of very exciting baseball. I sense I'm preaching to the choir here, but I am interested in hearing what people think being a fan means, and what duties and responsibilities it entails - both from the supporter with regard to the team, and vice-versa. Is it "My team, right or wrong"? How critical do you feel you can be, while still remaining a fan? Where's the line? Over to you...