For eight years, the name Luis Gonzalez was synonymous with the Arizona Diamondbacks. After the 1998 season the Diamondbacks were looking to re-tool. In what has been to date the best trade in franchise history, General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr. sent Karim Garcia to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for journeyman outfielder Luis Gonzalez and cash.
It was a perfect fit. The team received a left fielder who blossomed into a power hitting giant and Gonzalez found a home and a fan base who appreciated his skills. From almost the moment he arrived, Gonzalez became a fan favorite for his gritty play and his community work on and off the field.
The end of the 2006 season will long be known as a black day in Diamondbacks history when Gonzo was told by team officials that his services were no longer needed. It was a blow to both the player and the fan base.
Gonzalez would go on and play two more seasons. Each time he came to Phoenix he would be met by standing ovations and cheers usually reserved for the home team. Upon his retirement Gonzalez was coaxed into a job with the Diamondbacks front office as a special assistant to team president and CEO Derrick Hall.
He has appeared at several functions representing the team, much to the delight of the fans. Major League Baseball was also impressed with Gonzalez and yesterday named him the official ambassador of the 82nd midsummer classic, which will be played at Chase Field this July 12.
The announcement kicked off a weeklong media blitz for Gonzalez where he will be appearing on what seems like every radio and television station touting the upcoming All-Star events and their impact on the community.
As the ambassador of the All-Star Game, Gonzalez will represent the city and the team in upcoming events throughout Major League Baseball to build excitement and hopefully bring more people out to the festivities.
Hosting the midsummer classic is not just putting on one event. There are a multitude of activities for everyone regardless of whether they are baseball fans or not. The game itself is on July 12 and is actually the culmination of events that begin the week before.
At the Phoenix Civic Plaza across from Chase Field will be the FanFest with games, activities and celebrities. This runs from Friday July 8 through Tuesday July 12.
Beginning Sunday July 10 is when the action really begins to heat up. On that day will be the Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball game, where Gonzo will be playing. That day will also include the XM All-Star Futures Game, featuring the best minor league players giving fans a glimpse into the future starts of the game.
Monday July 11 is an event everyone is looking forward to with the State Farm Home Run Derby. With Chase Field being known as a very hitter-friendly park, the balls should really fly in the warm desert air. Monday will also be the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, giving fans a chance to see their favorite all-star players getting ready for the big game.
And for dessert we have the All-Star Game being played at Chase Field on July 12. It looks to be a great week in Arizona with a little something for everyone.
I had an opportunity to sit down for a one-on-one interview with Gonzalez at his office in Chase Field yesterday. Let me start by saying what a thrill it was to be given this chance. I’m just a guy from section 132, so to be included in the media event for the All-Star Game was indeed an honor.
Rather than trying to cover this event as a member of the traditional media, I thought instead I would talk to Gonzo and ask him questions the fans might want to know. After all, now that his playing days are over, Gonzalez is a fan. He sits in his season tickets each game and roots for the home team.
So for the next couple of days I will post excerpts from the interview and give you a glimpse of Luis Gonzalez not only as the ambassador of the All-Star Game, but also as a Diamondbacks fan who is as excited about the midsummer classic as we are.