D-backs dedicate softball field to Putz family

Former closer is now a special assistant to team president and CEO Hall

D-backs dedicate softball field to Putz family

The name printed in white letters on a green scoreboard at the Arizona Diamondbacks' latest field construction and renovation project tells you instantly why this one stands out: J.J. and Kelsey Putz Field.

You won't have much trouble finding J.J. Putz on baseball sites. Putz, who recorded a career-high 45 saves for the D-backs in 2011, had a 12-year Major League career.

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You would also find Kelsey Kollen, listed under her maiden name before she married the big right-hander, prominently featured in the exploits of University of Michigan softball, where she excelled as a second baseman.

Kelsey Putz's legendary -- if lesser-known -- career at Michigan included being selected for All-America first-team honors as a junior in 2001 and winning second- team All-America honors in 1999. She was honored as the All Big-Ten second baseman three times.

Now a special assistant to D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall, Putz advocated for including the first softball field in the team's "Diamonds Back'' Youth Field Building program, which has donated $11 million to renovating and building fields since 2000.

That wasn't too surprising, given that Putz is married to a softball legend and has three daughters, including 10-year-old twins who play at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in northwest Phoenix, where J.J. and Kelsey Putz Field is located. It is the 36th field built or reconstructed by the D-backs.

Putz said he was thrilled when Hall accepted his suggestion. He also said he would have been embarrassed if a softball field dedicated to celebrate his career did not also recognize his wife, noting that it is Kelsey who was the exceptional softball player. The couple attended Michigan together and also have a 7-year-old son.

"They are back in the trenches with the kids, raising them almost as a single mom for half the year while we're gone,'' Putz said. "With her tie-in with softball and her passionate love for it, and the fact that we have three girls, [she needed to be recognized]."

Putz said he hopes the softball field renovation project is "the first of many," and efforts to give back to the community need to include boys and girls. He said girls can develop the same qualities that boys learn from sports, maybe put themselves in a position to earn a college scholarship and also obtain a sense of fulfillment.

"Sports build a lot of character traits, competitiveness, responsibility, teamwork and accountability," Putz said. "Not only does it help you when you are out on the field playing, but they are great qualities to take with you to the workplace."

Hall said he was happy to take on the renovation project with Arizona Public Service Co., an Arizona utility that has been a steadfast partner in the fields program since its inception. He said boys' and girls' teams have always been included in a program that has supplied 40,000 Arizona children with free T-shirts, hats and jerseys to youth leagues.

"It's to get them to be fans for life. That's our job," Hall said. "We know we can make an impact. We understand our social responsibility."

While playing softball helps girls build character, Hall acknowledged that it is also important for the D-backs to build their fan base by including women.

"We think it's an opportunity to open the door," Hall said.

Kelsey Putz said having her name on the scoreboard builds credibility with her 10-year-old twins. She serves as assistant coach of their team. The honor also means a great deal to her because she won a championship on the same field while playing in a tournament as an 18-year-old high school student.

Kelsey is from Cerritos, Calif., and played for Santa Ana Mater Dei High School.

"Our kids play at the field. I thought it would be cool for them," Kelsey said about her children seeing both parents' names on the field.

When the girls see her name on scoreboard, they will know "I do know what I am talking about," Kelsey said. "It's time that they get nice fields. Asking about softball was a no-brainer."

Anna Marie Hartman, 17, an Xavier College Preparatory softball player, attended the dedication with her teammates, her coach and also another team from Valley Lutheran High School.

Hartman, a left fielder, has played on the field for eight years. She and her coaches said they consider J.J. and Kelsey Putz Field a "showcase facility," and that virtually every girls high school softball player in the region has played on the field during a tournament at one time or another.

"J.J. Putz has been a role model. I appreciate what he has done," Hartman said. "It makes you feel special."

Jim Walsh is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.