D-backs pay tribute to fallen firefighters in Arizona
Club raising money for victims' families, will wear patch remainder of season
NEW YORK -- Derrick Hall's disappointment with the recent on-field results of his team disappeared in a flash Sunday as news spread that 19 Arizona firefighters lost their lives battling a wildfire near Yarnell, Ariz.
"It quickly put everything in perspective," the D-backs team president and CEO said.
As Hall is well aware, the fortunes of a baseball team pale in comparison to the loss of life, but he also knows the attention the team generates gives it a powerful platform and he immediately began to think of ways the D-backs could use it to help those affected.
"It's a tough time for all of Arizona right now, and it's time for Arizona's team to play its part," Hall said. "We certainly feel we have a responsibility to help and a large stage to do it. We understand our role and what we can do, the impact we can have. We're going to step up."
The D-backs will wear a patch on their uniforms for the rest of the 2013 season to honor the fallen firefighters. They will begin wearing the patch Friday, and until then they will wear black armbands on their right sleeves.
"Anything we can do to support them," second baseman Aaron Hill said of the families of the lost firefighters as well as victims of the fire. "Not bring awareness, but just to let the families know that, 'Hey we're out there, we're thinking about you guys, we're here for you.' I know I'll be proud to wear it because of what it stands for and to honor them."
A jersey bearing the No. 19 and the name "Yarnell" on the back hung in both teams' dugouts at Citi Field on Monday and is expected to remain there during the rest of series with the Mets.
When the D-backs return home Friday, they will wear their black jerseys, but whereas they used to say "D-backs" across the front, they will now say "Arizona" and there will be a white patch over the heart bearing the No. 19.
Major League ballparks across the country Monday observed a moment of silence in honor of the firefighters.
Yarnell is located about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix, and the firefighters that were killed were members of an elite fire suppression unit known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots, which is based in nearby Prescott.
It is the largest loss of life among firefighting personnel since 340 perished in the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. It was the largest in a wildfire since 1933, when 29 firefighters lost their lives in Los Angeles.
"It's brutal, it's terrible," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "I heard that last night and it was sickening. My thoughts and prayers go out to the firefighter's families and the community. I know we're going to participate and try to do what we can do as an organization. It will never replace what they've had to go through, but hopefully we can help in some capacity."
Closer J.J. Putz has friends that live in Northern Arizona, including one that lives near Yarnell, so he is familiar with the area. He was pleased to hear that the team was going to wear the black arm bands and patches.
"You don't realize the courage that those guys show," he said of the firefighters. "They are the ones just like police officers that are running into the action when everybody is trying to get away from it. I hope it shows the families that lost those brave men that they're definitely in our thoughts and prayers. I know that I definitely respect and appreciate what they do."
The D-backs will encourage fans throughout the weekend and during this week's broadcasts to donate on dbacks.com in support of the 100 Club of Arizona, Arizona Red Cross and other charities that will assist the families and communities impacted by the tragedy.
Beginning Tuesday, fans will be able to donate at dbacks.com with each donation being matched by the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation up to $100,000. Fans who donate $19 or more will be entered for a chance to win a team-signed home white jersey with the name "Yarnell" and the No. 19.
In addition to a moment of silence before Friday's game at Chase Field proceeds from the weekend's 50/50 Raffle will benefit the families of the tragedy, as will the proceeds from the weekend's online auction at dbacks.com, which will feature the jerseys worn by the players this weekend and signed nameplates from the D-backs clubhouse.
The online auction on dbacks.com will run through the remainder of the first half of the season and conclude on July 14.
The weekend originally was set to be the D-backs Military Appreciate Weekend, and that will continue with the country's troops being honored in addition to the fallen firefighters.
Tickets for all military and first responders -- including firefighters and police officers, are 50 percent off at the Chase Field Box Office.
Throughout the 10-game homestand, a "19" logo will be painted on the grass on the field and will also appear on a sign behind home plate so it can be seen by the viewing audience.
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.