On February 26, the gates to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick opened at 11 a.m., with anxious fans ready to watch the first spring training game held at the new facility for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
As the fans made their way through the gates, employees handed out a commemorative opening-day ticket made from clay and printed with the date.
Many smiling faces were found inside the stadium, including those of Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members working on-site in the concession stands or on maintenance or ticket duty. Community member Cecilia “Tweety” Antone was all set up at her Indian frybread stand, located near the lawn section.
Community member and artisan Royce Manuel was being interviewed by FOX Sports News about the facility and the concept for the Salt River Fields logo, which he designed. The opening day even made the New York Times.
SRPMIC President Diane Enos and Vice-President Martin Harvier prepared to throw out the first pitches in the first game. “It was a little bit scary,” Enos admitted afterward. “I didn’t want to embarrass myself or the Community, so when I got on the field to throw it, I really concentrated on pitching it well and I was pleased on how I did.”
Vice-President Harvier said he has had the opportunity to throw out the opening pitch at other spring training games in the past, representing the Community, “and it’s really nerve-racking when you actually get out there, throwing in front of thousands of people and not wanting to throw it on the ground or to the side,” said Harvier, “but I liked the way they set it up.”
“I practiced several times before I had to throw out the first pitch,” said Enos. A good friend of hers played softball and gave her some tips on throwing from a pitcher’s point of view. “It’s really not as easy as it looks, because it is 60 feet [to home plate] and it requires a lot of strength in your arm to throw that hard,” Enos said. “I put all my power behind it and [gradually] worked up to the whole 60 feet.” Both Harvier and Enos had the opportunity to play catch with one of the D-backs players before the game.
The Salt River Elementary School choir sang the national anthem as four biplanes flew over the stadium.
On opening day, 12,500 people attended the game. “I always enjoy the game of baseball,” said Harvier. “I think that is what I was looking forward to, because I have gone many times and seen the stadium empty, and to go and finally see it filled was very exciting for me. It was also exciting to see a lot of Community members there who were employed.”
“It is really different when it is ours,” said Enos about going and enjoying the facility. The first game was also a learning experience for the staff regarding issues with parking and people getting in and out.
The Rockies led through most of the game until the end, when the Diamondbacks tied the score. But the Rockies ended up winning on their last at-bat.
Harvier was on the second floor watching the game when he caught a foul ball from where he was sitting. Meanwhile, Enos sat right behind the dugout and had the opportunity to watch the game with her family at eye level.
“It was fabulous. The best part for me was seeing all the Community members there, and they were all proud and excited because it is our enterprise,” said Enos.
“We look forward to seeing the stats on the income from the Talking Stick Resort, Pavilions, Talking Stick Golf Course and the stadium; that was the intent [of choosing this location for the spring training facility],” added Enos.