Los Angeles natives Jack and Anna, along with 18 guests, made the three-hour trip from Yuma to Phoenix last Friday to watch their beloved Dodgers take on the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. They had the best seats in the house, the Batter’s Box Suite, which, according to the Diamondbacks, provides “an unparalleled view of the playing field from behind home plate” and “unbeatable proximity to the live action.”
Excited for the night ahead, Anna went into work early on Friday morning — at 5:30 a.m., to be exact — so she could get in a full day before pulling her seven-year-old daughter out of school early and heading east. Eleven hours later, she and her family were among the first of their group to pass through the Chase Field turnstiles, arriving just in time to catch Dodgers batting practice.
As time counted down to first pitch, the 20-person suite that Jack and Anna rented out for $3,000 began to fill up with Dodger blue. Starting pitchers Patrick Corbin and Clayton Kershaw had made their way to the outfield to long toss with their respective catchers. The Chase Field grounds crew was meticulously chalking the baselines and batter’s box. Players from both teams occupied the outfield, stretching and sprinting and visiting with one another. And Diamondbacks public address announcer, Chuck Drago, had welcomed the game’s attendees to Chase Field, which he’d declare as, “Home of the Diamondbacks, the most fan-friendly team in sports.”
Soon after the Desert Ridge High School Concert Choir performed the “Star-Spangled Banner” and right around the time Corbin took the mound to begin throwing his warm-up pitches, Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick made his way from his seat — which is adjacent to his team’s dugout — to Jack and Anna’s group in the Batter’s Box Suite. There, he was seen “pointing his finger, raising his voice, and frustratedly flipping his arms in the air” at the group, as described by one observer who contributed to Deadspin’s original report on the incident.
For Kendrick, the proud owner of an award-winning organization that is known for its philanthropy and fan focus, the apparent issue was that Jack and Anna’s group would be populating every television camera shot of every pitch with the opposing team’s colors. So, instead of having television viewers see a group of Dodgers fans filling the seats directly behind home plate at Chase Field, Kendrick had television viewers see that group of Dodgers fans behind home plate undergo a costume change.
Jack and Anna’s group had to change into Diamondbacks apparel in order to retain presence in the $3,000 suite.
Presumably to avoid the appearance of being lacking in fan support, the Diamondbacks recently created a policy — which, allegedly, was neither told to Jeff and Anna at time of purchase, nor published on the Dbacks.com suites page — that prohibits the wearing of an opposing team’s apparel in the Batter’s Box Suite.
“Nobody told us (about that policy),” Anna told me during the bottom of the second inning, now wearing a backward black Diamondbacks T-shirt. “We paid a lot of money for this suite and, had we known the rules, we probably wouldn’t have bought the tickets.”
In response to an inquiry by Deadspin, the Diamondbacks gave this explanation of the night’s proceedings:
Due to the high visibility of the home plate box, we ask opposing team’s fans when they purchase those seats to refrain from wearing that team’s colors. During last night’s game, when Ken Kendrick noticed the fans there, he offered them another suite if they preferred to remain in their Dodger gear. When they chose to stay, he bought them all D-backs gear and a round of drinks and requested that they abide by our policy and they obliged.
Although Jack and Anna’s representation of their encounter with Kendrick excluded such cordiality (they stated that he told them they were wearing “the wrong shirts” and that they’d be escorted out of the stadium if they didn’t comply with the policy), the issue at hand isn’t really one that is subject to “he said, she said” rhubarbs. The truth of what the Diamondbacks’ offer actually was, the measure to which Kendrick actually got involved, and the decency with which the situation was handled may be unassailable.
But the policy and the fact that Kendrick involved himself in its enforcement is highly questionable for an organization that struggled to fill seats last year — finishing 13th in gross attendance among the National League’s 16 teams — and hurt its reputation in the offseason, drawing criticism in the trades of two outfield mainstays, in Justin Upton and Chris Young, and one big-time prospect, the highly-touted Trevor Bauer.
Ironically, Kendrick’s team played a marvelous game on Friday night — one manager Kirk Gibson described as “perfect” in his post-game press conference, defeating Kershaw and the Dodgers 3-0. But, with thousands unleashing their disapproval of the owner and his team’s policy in the hours after news of Friday night’s episode first broke, the victory has been marred by Kendrick’s pre-game strikeout.
For both Kendrick and those in his best suite, Friday was a showing of true colors. Seconds after J.J. Putz threw the final pitch of the game, members of Jack and Anna’s group stripped out of their designated Diamondbacks attire and tossed it into the seats behind them. They then exited the suite just as they entered it — in Dodger blue.