D-backs brighten kids' day at Winter Classic

Underprivileged youth visit Chase Field for fun with players, gifts from team

D-backs brighten kids' day at Winter Classic

PHOENIX -- It was billed as the D-backs "Winter Classic" but it hardly felt like winter Friday afternoon at Chase Field.

With temperatures in the 70s and 600 underprivileged kids filling the field playing Wiffle ball, running the bases, creating holiday crafts and meeting some of their hometown heroes, it sure felt like baseball season.

"Look at their faces," said D-backs closer Addison Reed, who was one of the players on hand. "Look at the smiles. That makes it all worth it. This is a great event."

The D-backs started the event 17 years ago after the organization's first season, and each year it continues to grow.

"Six hundred is a little higher than most years," D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall said. "It's the highest we've been. It continues to grow not only with volunteers, but with the number of kids that we impact."

This year there was a Phoenix Herpetological Society petting zoo, and the Phoenix Symphony hosted what it called an "Instrument Petting Zoo" where kids could try out various musical instruments.

D-backs athletic trainers were on hand to conduct a fitness zone, and there were the usual pictures with Santa Claus.

"This is amazing," manager Chip Hale said. "I can't believe how many kids we've got here today. This is much bigger than I initially thought. It's great."

More important than the games and the chance to mingle with players was the fact that the kids were given packages including a new pair of shoes, socks, backpacks, sweatshirts and drawstring bags.

"It's pretty impressive and you watch the smiles we've created," Hall said.

University of Phoenix, which sponsored the event, had more than 150 volunteers on hand to help.

"Everyone is having a good time and they're out on a big league field," Reed said. "That has to be special for them, and I'm glad I can be a small part of it. The least we can do is go out and interact with people. We're blessed with a job where we get to put on a uniform and play a game every day. That's something that not a lot of people get to do, so anytime we can go and make people's day a little better or make them smile a little, I think that's pretty awesome."

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.