D-backs hit Grand Slam with community outreach

D-backs hit Grand Slam with community outreach

PHOENIX -- Asking D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall to name his organization's favorite community program is a lot like asking a parent which of their children they like best.

The answer is he likes them all equally and he takes pride in the fact that the team recently surpassed $42 million in charitable efforts during the franchise's existence.

But, the Grand Slam Awards are special because of the impact they can make on a given charity. As part of the program the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation gives up to $100,000 each to selected charities.

"It is a way for us to have significant impact on several people, organizations and communities throughout all of Arizona," Hall said. "We continue to use it as a vehicle to deliver hope and dreams to so many recipients, from schools, to those less fortunate or without homes or food, to the disabled, to animals, to those are sick. We understand our social responsibility and embrace the concept of changing and improving lives."

There are typically six Grand Slam Awards given, with three or four receiving the maximum $100,000. That can be a game-changer for a lot of charities.

"We look for those incredible programs that dig deep into the community trying to solve issues" said Debbie Castaldo, the D-backs' vice president of corporate and community impact. "So our priorities are always going to be homelessness, indigent healthcare, children's programs of all types and also those who may be on the cutting edge of something."

The screening progress is a rigorous one. The applications are first screened by a committee made up of team employees, players' wives and season-ticket holders. That committee ranks them, and then the foundation's board does as well. The scores are combined and the finalists are invited to make in-person presentations.

When J.J. Putz retired in 2014, he joined the team's front office and wanted to sit in on one of the finalist's presentations. It was St. Andrew's Children's Clinic from Nogales, Ariz., and it included a young boy in a wheelchair, who had received treatment.

"They talked about what they do in the community," Castaldo said. "And then this young man got out of his wheelchair and walked for the first time ever. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. So J.J. leaned over to Derrick and said, 'I'm not going anywhere I want to see all the presentations.'"

The most recent recipients were: A New Leaf, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix, Elevate Phoenix, Singleton Moms, St. Andrew's Children's Clinic and St. Joseph the Worker.

The team received 115 applications for next year's awards, which will be given out in April, and there's a lot of work to do between now and then.

"It's a very rigorous process to get to be a finalist," Castaldo said. "Our employees take such pride in reading these applications. Because they play such an important role in raising the money they're also very serious about looking for special causes that they might not otherwise know about."

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.