CHANDLER, Ariz. -- A dark olive-green Army National Guard Helicopter swept in from nearby Papago Army Airfield early on Veterans Day morning, its huge blades kicking up a storm on the Whirlwind Golf Course located about 20 miles south of Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.As the dust and bits of grass settled, members of the Arizona Diamondbacks also blew into town as the team honored the military with a golf tournament on this most hallowed of Fridays: 11-11-11. "This is an important day for our country to honor our veterans, and we felt this was a great time to resurrect our golf outing," said Ken Kendrick, the D-backs' managing general partner. "We haven't done one in some time, 11-11-11 is a pretty special time, and this is a very special event." The D-backs haven't had a charity golf tourney in five years, choosing instead to focus on other endeavors. But Kendrick envisions this as the beginning of an annual Veterans Day event. "With the outreach to the military and importance of the veterans to all of us, we thought this would be a good way to start a new golf event and have it annually tied into Veterans Day," Kendrick added. "It looks like a good turnout, so I hope this is the first of many." About a dozen corporate sponsors made charitable contributions to create foursomes that were completed by a D-backs player, past or present. Justin Upton, Ryan Roberts, Ian Kennedy, Lyle Overbay, J.J. Putz and Joe Saunders were among the members of this year's team that went out on the course. Reggie Sanders, Devon White, Luis Gonzalez and Doug Davis were among the former D-backs who donated their time on Friday. Gonzalez is currently a special advisor to D-backs president Derrick Hall, who is recovering well from prostate cancer surgery. "When they asked me to come here from South Carolina, I was very excited," said Sanders, the right fielder on the D-backs team that defeated the Yankees in seven games to win the 2001 World Series. "I understand what the veterans have done for Americans, period. And then to celebrate the day like this was something really special for me." Roberts played a doubleheader on Friday, leaving the course for a noon meet-and-greet with veterans at the ballpark. "Whatever I can do, I'm just glad to do it," said Roberts, who emerged this year as Arizona's starting third baseman on a club that was eliminated by the Brewers in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. "I'm not sure that when these kids came home from war that they were put on a platform the way they should have been. They deserve all our respect. They've paved the way for us to be able to do what we do today in our lives." On this day, the D-backs honored members of all four military branches, the fallen and the survivors. They even honored a military mother who had lost her son fighting the war in Afghanistan with a personalized "Honor and Remember" flag in a short ceremony that led to the opening of the tournament. The D-backs have hired Captain Jack Ensch, formally of the Padres, as their military-affairs specialist to coordinate all of the club's interactions with the services. Ensch was also on hand for Friday's event. Chase Bank, which owns the naming rights on the team's 14-year-old ballpark, underwrote the tournament and sponsored a season-long effort this year to recognize veterans and active-duty military by providing tickets for D-backs games. Kendrick said the entire military initiative is quite meaningful to him, personally, particularly the golf tournament. "My wife comes from a military family, and my dad served in World War II," he said. "While I didn't serve in the military, I know what service to the country means. So Veterans Day is the time we all need to stop and remember those who sacrificed to make our lives better and give us the freedoms we so much enjoy."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.