Ted Simons: The Arizona Diamondbacks were a surprising success last year. With that success now comes high expectations for the upcoming season. Indeed, D-backs fans showed up to spring training games last month in record-breaking numbers. Here now to talk about the home team is Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall. Good to see you again.
Ted Simons: I was excited, last time we saw you, you had an ASU player on the roster.
Derrick Hall: It all came together really good. We had a very long spring, as you recall. Kirk Gibson really had them working so hard it just clicked. They took on the persona of their manager. They were never out of their game. They played gritty baseball for 27 outs, 48 come-from-behind wins. All of Arizona fell in love and embraced these guys.
Ted Simons: Could you pinpoint a time when you knew, this is going pretty well, something special could happen here.
Derrick Hall: There were several points, but in particular I remember a series where we took over first place, we were up in San Francisco. We took two out of three from the Giants. I remember going down to Kirk Gibson's office. I said, just think when you get the talent coming up from the minor leagues. He says we've got talent right now, it's called heart. But you look at the coaching staff, Allen Trammel and Don Baylor and Eric Young and Glen Sherlock best coaching staff in all of baseball. Players say, I've got to listen to these guys and learn from them.
Ted Simons: No malcontents from my point of view. It’s important to have the players buy into all of that.
Derrick Hall: And it's important, and they have bought into it. It's amazing how well they all get along. You can accomplish so much more when you're not concerned with who gets the credit it is truly a team.
Ted Simons: Last year, about an out away from the World Series there, getting awfully close for a chance at the World Series, you had expectations this year. Talk about those challenges.
Derrick Hall: We do, and it is a challenge. Now you've got a target on your back and they are gunning for you. I prefer where you're really flying below the radar and sneak up on everybody. We caught our fans and the other teams by surprise. There is no surprise this year. Some of the headlines, the biggest surprise in baseball last year was the Diamondbacks. The biggest surprise this year will be the Diamondbacks not winning the NLS. You can see how quickly you can turn it around. We have a lot of depth of talent in our minor leagues, too.
Ted Simons: Let's say you start out of the gate at 500, the first month. How do you keep folks not only engaged but in it for the long haul?
Derrick Hall: Regardless of how we're playing, if we keep doing what we're doing at the ballpark, fans will want to come out and root for this team. They know the guys give 100% every night. The effort is there, and I think the results will come, as well. As long as we keep providing the most affordable ticket in all of baseball, the cleanest, safest, most beautiful ballpark that's fan interactive, we'll be fine.
Ted Simons: I don't think anyone would argue you have the best training facility in town. Even during what little bad weather we had -- how do you get those fans? Is it a problem with people maybe spending disposable income in spring, and then how do you get past that hurdle?
Derrick Hall: I think the fans are getting in the habit of going to baseball games again and rooting for this team, building relationships with our players. They do take so much time to sign autographs and take pictures. The loyalty spills over into the regular season. It's affordable at Chase Field, as well spring training. They are not going to get their wallets gouged going from one facility to the other.
Ted Simons: Talk about the fan experience, very proud the fact that there's a lot of things going on there, and you're in the entertainment business, as well. What changes this year?
Derrick Hall: We're fortunate that we had the all-star game so we made that ballpark look as good as new. There was very little we had to do this year. If you have your MLB at-bat application when you come into the ballpark, from there they can order food from their seats, get an alert when their food is ready, go to a specific line to pick it up. They can look at bios, information about Chase Field. So much going on that we need to make sure we have an advantage to those visiting rather than those watching at home.
Ted Simons: I bring my iPad I can watch the replay right there in Section 102?
Derrick Hall: You can indeed, you go into our app and you will get all of that info.
Ted Simons: How is your health doing?
Derrick Hall: Thank you, Ted, very well. I had my diagnosis of prostate cancer back in September, I actually had treatment and surgery in November, and it hasn't been too long. But I had a very important blood test the other day and got the results today. Nondetectable today, and very good news, feel great.
Ted Simons: Was it difficult going public with that?
Derrick Hall: Not at all, being able to take the platform and drive awareness and get people to get in and be tested. Early detection is the key to treatment. I looked at it as an opportunity.
Ted Simons: A lot of people would say leave me alone.
Derrick Hall: I had a lot of people; you're crazy going out there. I had a number of people either call or write and say, thank you, because of you I went in to get tested and I have been detected. Or thank you, I did get tested and I don't have it. I'm pleased that people are going now. It's a simple test.
Ted Simons: Great year last year, very interesting year for you last year in a variety of ways. You're the president and CEO of a baseball team. From a personal standpoint do you ever sit back and go, goodness, gracious, this is the life.
Derrick Hall: All the time. You've got the life, too, but all the time, I do. I pinch myself because this is what I always wanted to do, growing up.
Ted Simons: Some folks want to play third place, some people want to be a fireman, and you wanted to be the president of a baseball team?
Derrick Hall: I love baseball, love Major League Baseball my entire life. I wanted to be in it, didn't know how. I wanted to be a team president and here I am. If you truly love what you're doing you'll never work a day in your life. I do that. I love our staff and culture and camaraderie. The culture lately, it's the icing on the cake.
Ted Simons: We can't wait for the season to be started Friday. Good to have you.