Family, front office members gather to celebrate one of the 'kings of baseball'
By Jesse Sanchez
PHOENIX -- Baseball legend Roland Hemond grabbed the microphone, took a peek at the 250 people that had gathered in his honor under a large white canopy in center field at Alkire Park and smiled.
"This is very touching," Hemond said. "Enjoy the moment today."
Hemond didn't have to say it twice.
On Thursday, the D-backs, in conjunction with Arizona Public Service, dedicated the latest field in the "Diamonds Back" Youth Field Building Program to Hemond. The afternoon also served as a celebration of Hemond's lifetime of achievements in the game.
There was no doubt everyone was enjoying the moment.
"Every time I am around him, I see the impact he has had in baseball," D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa said. "I believe he is the most beloved man of our generation. He's got spirit, he's got integrity, he loves the game and he's so smart about baseball. He's got the rings and most of all, he's a great human being.
"There is nobody like him. If you want to give him a tribute, having kids play on his field is the best way."
Hemond, who is in his eighth season with the D-backs, is a three-time winner of MLB's Executive of the Year Award and the second recipient of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. His 64 years of professional baseball experience includes 23 seasons as a general manager for the White Sox and Orioles. Hemond is considered the architect of the Arizona Fall League, and he is the only non-uniformed person to have received the Branch Rickey Award.
"He has influenced so many people," D-backs president Derrick Hall said. "Roland is considered one of the kings of baseball, and what a wonderful career he has had. Nobody has had more influence on the game of baseball than Roland Hemond."
Hemond's family, members of the club's front office, representatives from the City of Phoenix and APS, along with children from Cactus Youth Baseball League and Bethune Elementary School were among those in attendance at the ceremony.
Hemond's grandson, Zane Hemond, threw out the ceremonial first pitch as part of the celebration. A brand new scoreboard with Hemond's name was unveiled in left field.
"We at APS share the Diamondbacks' passion for giving back to the community and touching the lives of many Arizonans," APS Chairman and CEO Don Brandt said. "The D-backs are a great example to other teams in Major League Baseball and other business in Arizona. This field building program is just one way we at APS and the Diamondbacks demonstrate our shared commitment to the communities we serve. It's our hope that this field will make a positive long-term impact on the families and children that surround this park."
Since 2000, the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation has built or refurbished 35 baseball fields, marking a community investment of more than $10 million. Field upgrades youth field rebuilding program often include new lights, an electronic scoreboard, new fencing and backstops, along with new irrigation, grass and dirt.
"What a beautiful field. It is really a gem," Phoenix councilwoman Kate Gallego said. "We are looking forward to having the next generations of baseball players perfect their craft in this park. It's a home run. The game of baseball is so meaningful for us in the community because it's a game everyone can play."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.