Ted Simons: Pitchers and catchers began workouts today at Salt River fields, the new spring training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It's a big year for the D-Backs. They have a new spring training stadium, they're hosting the all-star game, and the D-Backs are commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the team's world series win. Earlier, I discussed all of that with Diamondbacks' president and CEO Derrick Hall. Thanks for joining us on tonight on "Horizon."
Derrick Hall: Thanks, Ted. Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about the new facility. Why did the team move from Tucson up to the reservation up near Scottsdale?
Derrick Hall: Tough choices, we certainly enjoyed our relationship down there in Tucson and wanted to have coverage over the whole state which is why we had originally went there and but it became logically too tough. Once the Rockies left, The White Sox left, there were two left. Us and the Rockies. The Rockies announced their intention was to relocate up north. And there was no way we could be the only team there. And went together looking at options through a RFP process. And this one fell into our lap and we couldn't be more happy.
Ted Simons: What was it about the RFP that turned your head, which is traditionally done by way of municipalities and such.
Derrick Hall: There were no tax dollars and that was number one. The -- number two, the location. You go out there. The access, the 101, there's nothing like this. 140 acres right there where the pavilions lake golf courses was. It's the best.
Ted Simons: Is that thing going to be ready?
Derrick Hall: It's ready. February 14th, we're going to have pitchers and catchers out. Which is today.
Ted Simons: I'm worried about the game.
Derrick Hall: We're good. We're good, February 26th.
Ted Simons: All right. Ok. I got to ask this. My wife wants to know. She's a huge Diamondback fan and loves watching the team coming up and how they're doing. When spring training is over, it's not going to be empty. Could there be a minor league playing there.
Derrick Hall: That's something that we've talked about the tribes about. The possibility of having a triple A there. It will go used year-round, the purpose is to be for our spring training but the minor league hub and the rehab for the major league and minor league and extended spring training and fantasy camp and camps and clinics and we'll turn over about six fields to the community and they can go out in the offseason, and go out and book them for tournaments and have adult tournaments, youth tournaments and get it used 365 days a year. It's fantastic and it should be.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about what happened the past couple of years. What happened the past couple of years?
Derrick Hall: I'll tell you, you look at the team and for the most part, it was the same as 2007 and here's a young team that goes to the NLCS and got out-scored and didn't score as many runs and we come back in 2008 and we start 20-8 and the team is on the cover of SI and everybody is talking about world series and then the wheels came off and I think a little bit of the deer in the headlights and couldn't believe that the dodgers caught up and the players didn't respond well. But more importantly, the appropriate in philosophy changed. Unloaded the bullpen from 2007. When you lose Brandon Webb, who is your ace and when Dan HERRON is not there. We made changes that made us a lot stronger and, of course, made changes with the manager and general manager as a result as well.
Ted Simons: Talk about those changes. Again, you talk about priorities and the last leadership group seemed it was looking at one thing and neglecting others. Does it feel like there's more of -- I don't know, not inside baseball but -- help me here.
Derrick Hall: We've got individuals in there now and it's old school baseball. It's about the game itself. Individuals who respect the game and understand the game and had a lot of success in the game and we're back. Last week we had organizational meetings at our new site and to have every scout in the room and coach in the room and general managers, everyone on the same page. The tone was set by Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers, this is the way we want to play, this is the Diamondback way and not anyone in the room is more important than anyone else and it's back to basics and to listen to our coaching staff. When you have Alan Trammell, Don Baylor, Charles Nagy, Matt Williams, Glen Sherlock. Each taking about an half an hour to tell their philosophy and their expectations of the players, I'm excited about the upcoming season.
Ted Simons: Let's get to payroll. It's less than last year. 15 some odd million.
Derrick Hall: When you look at who was on the books -- Brandon Webb and Russ Ortiz.
Ted Simons: It was record low attendance, I'm a fan. How do you convince me that spending less as far as payroll means a better team?
Derrick Hall: Spending total in baseball is the same amount as last year. When you look at a budget of $100 million, which includes payroll and baseball expenses and operations and signings. This year we had two Top Ten draft picks and it's important to earmark for that cause. For you as a fan, you're going to see a different style of play. You hear from fans, why not play the fundamentals of baseball. That's frustrating and I get that. We have to go out there on a consistent basis -- when you play the St. Louis cardinals, you know it. The angels the same thing. I think GIBBY is going to be that type of manager and we need to show you and fans it's different.
Ted Simons: What's going on, when you come from record low attendance you can only go up. Anything going to change there.
Derrick Hall: I think we're doing I lot right it doesn't need a lot of fixing. To have two million fans when you lose 97 games is remarkable no one should have been coming to the ballpark. Where you know you have value pricing and kids can get a hot dog for $1.50. When you can get a cap for $8. That's not going to change. Everything we do around the game is spectacular and we've been called the most fan-friendly in all of sports. But now let's win. And we'll see the attendance go up.
Ted Simons: In the all star game. How much input does the home team have?
Derrick Hall: It's major league baseball show. I've spent -- we finally got it and it's a big change for us. This is a huge year. Opening up the spring training facility as we did today. Having the all-star game. The 10th anniversary from 2001. Let's win in addition to that. But the all-star game, hopefully world series, Ted, the all-star game will be outstanding and we deserve it and we'll showcase our ballpark, which is as good as any in baseball and it's fun and a point of pride for the fans but to have the fan fest all week and the Sunday futures game and the celebrity softball game and the home-run hitting contest and Tuesday, the game itself, there's something to celebrate every day.
Ted Simons: Is that added pressure not only for -- added pressure, as we saw recently with the Super Bowl, things can have hitches. Is it added pressure for you and the team in that the Diamondbacks need to be relevant come all-star time.
Derrick Hall: It is pressure. Not only to pull everything off without a hitch as you alluded to before. Because it's going to be a reflection of Phoenix and the Diamondbacks and we want to do everything perfect and if people walk away -- what a great organization, what a great ball park a great experience. In addition to that, we want the side story, how well the Diamondbacks are playing. If we had a all-star season last year, we want to have a competitive team, you know, we talked about roster, bringing in veterans. Something we were missing in the past. Kevin Towers, a Geoff Blum. Guys that can teach our players how to play. These are the stories we hope to hear along with a pitching rotation and bullpen.
Derrick Hall: Last question: You're a AC graduate.
Derrick Hall: A Sun Devil.
Ted Simons: What took so long to get a Sun Devil on the major league roster?
Derrick Hall: Willie is the first on the major league roster. We came close, but we have Willie and he's thrilled. One of the reasons he wanted to be with us. He's a great utility guy but he said I'm watching the thing being built in my backyard and I can't wait to get out there and play for the home town. We want that and we're going to get that from a lot of people. I can play all year in town.
Ted Simons: As a fan of the Diamondbacks, I can say good luck this year and let's see a bullpen that can keep the ball in the yard.
Derrick Hall: I hope we make you and your wife proud this year.
Ted Simons: Thank you.