More Than Just a Fan

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

by: Rich Daniels

With the passing of United States Senator John McCain, fans outside Arizona are coming to realize just what the American icon really meant to the Arizona Diamondbacks and other sports teams in his home state. 

Always present, always supporting, McCain was a homer of a fan in the very greatest of ways. 

The team didn't have to be the best or be having a good season to feel his support and presence. The Diamondbacks can give thanks for their very existence in Phoenix to McCain's memory. 

Major League Baseball had a notion to expand as far back as 1988 and the Senator from Arizona was on a mission to deliver a franchise to his constituents. 

The fit made perfect sense as Phoenix even then was a huge metropolitan area with a large population that included a significant percentage of retirees from other parts of the country. 

In addition to the mammoth positive financial impact a franchise would bring with it, McCain was mindful of the powerfully conservative values his constituents maintained and their traditional connection to America's pastime. The war veteran tirelessly lobbied the MLB expansion committee to the point where White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a key member of the committee, recalled McCain's passionate pursuit of a team recall, "You can say he gave us an assist."

Phoenix was awarded a franchise in March of 1995 and McCain became a fixture in their history. 

He was present at the ensuing expansion draft and was a frequent visitor to spring training and the rough early years of the franchise. 

When the team made a championship run in 2001, McCain threw the ceremonial first pitch of the legendary Game 7. The former Vietnam War POW also accompanied the team on a visit to Ground Zero in New York when the series shifted there. 

The Diamondbacks were understandably sacked by McCain's passing. World Series hero Luis Gonzalez who acted as a pallbearer at the funeral services of a hero he considers far greater than himself. He told, "Senator McCain was not only a great man and patriot, but a great D-Backs fan and I am proud to consider him a dear friend. We always knew we could count on him to root us on."

Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall released his personal statement by saying, "John McCain has always been a member of the D-Backs family and was one of this team's biggest fans since Day One."

Manager Torey Lovullo was noticeably stricken in sharing with "He was a tremendous man. He was a tremendous leader. He represented the state of Arizona proudly, and he's going to be missed."

Anyone who had any doubts about John McCain's dedication to Arizona sports should find themselves quieted by his remarks in June of last year while questioning former FBI Director James Comey.

McCain seemed to become confused at one point during the proceedings and quipped, "Maybe I shouldn't stay up late watching the Diamondbacks before an important hearing."

The D-Backs regularly recognize those in active duty service and military veterans between the fourth and fifth innings of home games and they completed that with a video tribute to McCain on their Jumbotron.

The Diamondbacks will also hang a team jersey adorned with the number 18 and McCain's name in their dugout each game for the rest of the season. A respectful measure that ensures the Senator's enthusiastic presence and support will carry on.

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