D-backs fans raise the volume
Arizona generates excitement to draw new crowds
PHOENIX -- Before the D-backs came into existence in 1998, Phoenix always used to be a Dodgers town.And a Giants town. And most certainly a Cubs town. As the home-grown D-backs start their run in the 2007 National League Division Series, Arizona president Derrick Hall sees that starting to change, even with Chicago as the playoff visitors. Hall estimated Wednesday's Game 1 crowd contained 80 percent D-backs fans, as opposed to the nearly even or pro-Chicago crowds that usually accompany a Cubs game in Arizona. "We drowned them out, and that was our goal," Hall said. "Our fans are to the point now where they're not going to let someone else come into our house and make it feel like their home-field advantage." Hall pointed to the June 8-10 series against the Red Sox as the turning point for D-backs fans. The Boston faithful drowned out the Arizona fans in the first game, which Hall said shocked management and the fan base. The D-backs fans fought back in the second game before the third game -- a Randy Johnson victory against Daisuke Matsuzaka -- in which Hall said Arizona fans took Chase Field back. "From that point forward, it was a challenge for us and a challenge for our fans to make sure that teams heard us," Hall said. One fan who never has a problem being heard is Susan Price, who said she has attended every game since 2001. Her pregame routine involves getting to the ballpark around noon and greeting all the players as they arrive at the ballpark, screaming out words of encouragement with her hoarse voice from the top of the parking garage adjacent to Chase Field, a ritual she's done the past five years. Price takes in the games from her seats just beyond the D-backs' on-deck circle, where she said on Wednesday that Cubs fans were shouted down after trying to start a chant.
"I hope it's like that again tonight," Price said. "I don't see any reason why it won't be. I thought it was outstanding. I think everybody was a little afraid the Cubs fans would be too vocal, but they weren't."Chad Carroll, 32, also arrived early, waiting for Chase Field's gates to open about three and a half hours before game time with his boys, Zayn, 7, and Alex, 5. The family came dressed in "Anyone, Anytime" T-shirts and the boys wore red D-backs hats full of signatures from Arizona players.
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Carroll and his children watch D-backs games at home when they can't come out to the ballpark, exactly the kind of thing that helps a young franchise build a fan base."It means a lot," Carroll said of attending a playoff game with his sons. "This is my first postseason game ever. I grew up in Boston and I used to go to Red Sox games every once in a while. [It was] nothing like this." Although the D-backs don't boast a fan base like the Cubs or Red Sox being only in their 10th year of existence, the plan for this playoff run is to make sure Arizona youngsters grow up D-backs fans -- as opposed to many of their parents, who rooted for squads like the Dodgers, Giants and Cubs. "I think it's time," Hall said. "I think the support of those other clubs and the allegiance to those other ballparks is fading, and I think it's fading fast, and this is a Diamondbacks town, and I think our fans are now taking pride in making this a difficult place for the opposition to play." Unlike the 2001 team, which included no players still in a D-backs uniform for the 2007 run, Arizona expects this to be just the start for a club that remains competitive for years with a similar core that has been built through the farm system. Hall said that will help D-backs fans identify with their teams as the fan base continues to grow. Sitting in Friday's Front Row Grill in left field at the ballpark, 22-year-old Bob Kuerner eagerly awaited the future of the club he's grown up with. "It's only going to get better," Kuerner said.
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.