Hall looking forward to Race Against Cancer
In Q&A, Arizona's president also expresses confidence in team heading into season
PHOENIX -- Derrick Hall has a personal stake in the upcoming D-backs Race Against Cancer presented by the University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph's Hospital.
The D-backs president is a prostate cancer survivor and will be there at the starting line to meet and greet the runners.
The 5K race will be held Saturday, Feb. 9, beginning on Third Street, just a block from Chase Field, at 8 a.m. MT -- about an hour before the start of Fan Fest. At this point, it costs $50 for an individual to sign up for the race. A one-mile family fun walk beginning at 9:30 a.m. is $30. Anyone who wants to participate must register beforehand. There will be no same-day registration.
(A two-time colon cancer survivor, I am registered for the race. The cause is near and dear to me. Hall and I frequently talk about the disease. Getting out the message of early detection is the key. I am 3 1/2 years cancer-free with my next sixth-month tests coming later this month. Hall, who had surgery in 2011, will also get there.)
"My last blood test was about a month ago, and for the first time the cancer was undetectable," Hall said recently. "Hopefully it will stay that way. For the first year or so every test I took came back with a little bit of detection. We were leaning toward possibly having to radiate, but the doctors have said, 'Rather than see you every month, we'll see you every four months and we'll keep watching it.' Hopefully it will be every six months, then every year and I'll get on a routine."
The 5K as a fundraiser certainly evolved out of Hall's experience, but the race also honors all those battling some form of cancer. Ken Kendrick, the D-backs' managing general partner, is also a long-time prostate cancer survivor.
MLB.com: How did the race come about?
Hall: We've been thinking for a few years about doing a 5K run. After I decided to try and start my own foundation, as we were brainstorming one day, the head of our community affairs, Debbie Castaldo, said, 'Hey, why don't we have our run benefit cancer and benefit different causes such as yours?' I thought that was great. My wife, Amy, and I will get involved a little bit with our new foundation. We have the University of Arizona and Dignity Health. It's going to be a great event. In fact, the sponsorship dollars have already paid our expenses, so all entries now are going to be icing. We really didn't have a motivating force before, but once cancer unfortunately became so important to the organization, it was a no-brainer for all of us.
MLB.com: How has contracting cancer changed the psychology of how you live your life?
Hall: Well, you can relate. It certainly makes you appreciate life. You realize how important family members are. I really cherish each and every day with my wife and kids. It has changed me. No doubt. Having cancer wakes you up. It forces you to live a happier lifestyle, but it also forces you to enjoy each and every day and count your blessings. There are so many people not as fortunate as me to have either caught it or treated it successfully. So I feel like it's my mission now to drive awareness, spread the word and hopefully stress the importance of people being screened and tested.
MLB.com: What's your take on the changes your baseball operations have made this offseason? Gone are such stalwarts as Chris Young and Justin Upton, not long after Stephen Drew was traded.
Hall: It's been good, a lot of work. We've brought in 11 players now and have only moved three key players. We tried to bolster our bullpen, which was one of the objectives of the offseason. We wanted to strengthen our bench. We think that was one of our weaknesses last year. We didn't give [manager Kirk Gibson] enough options late in games. We wanted to address the outfield situation. We've shored up the middle infield. Cody Ross is somebody we've wanted for the last few years. Once we signed him as a free agent we knew we were going to have to move somebody. And the difficult decision was obviously made to move J-Up. I think we've done quite a bit here.
MLB.com: Will it be a challenge to market a team that doesn't have many familiar names left? I mean, you had some success here and won the division with Upton, Drew and Young in 2007 and '11. Now they're all gone.
Hall: I can remember when we brought them up, people asked how we were going to market the team with Drew and Young and Upton. I think it just happened. It's the same thing that will happen with Miguel Montero and Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill and Gerardo Parra and Adam Eaton. We just signed Martin Prado for four years. These are guys who are in the same position as that group was. Obviously, we challenge ourselves all the time about how we're going to market the team. We've always made sure that we don't focus on one guy. We want it to be about the team. And right now that's really what we've got.
MLB.com: Kevin Towers has always said during his tenures as general manager with the D-backs and the Padres, "Never fall in love with your players."
Hall: He's had to make tough decisions in the past, like he did with Justin. One of the most difficult for him over in San Diego was not being able to re-sign Trevor Hoffman. He'll tell you that was a heartbreaker for him. He's always looking at ways to bolster his lineup and his roster. He's always willing to listen. When K.T. came here a few years ago, a lot of people didn't believe him when he said he was going to find out the value of Justin Upton. Justin was going to be on our roster come the start of Spring Training until the Braves came along with a deal he thought he just couldn't pass up. We think Prado is a great addition to the team. K.T. rolls the dice a lot, but in many instances he comes up winning.
MLB.com: Did you consider Upton and Trevor Bauer to be problem players on the roster last year?
Hall: They were different cases. When it came to Bauer, he would be the first to admit he had problems last year. But by the end of the season he had really matured, really looked in the mirror and was reaching out to his teammates to make sure he didn't have those issues in the future. As far as Justin, no, he was never a problem at all. There's talk now that he wasn't Gibby's style of player, but I think that's been overblown. He had a very good relationship with Gibby -- a unique one. It was a relationship built on Gibby's past, because Gibby felt that in a lot of ways Justin reminded him of himself when he was that young, when people were putting so many labels on him, so much pressure on his shoulders. Gibby treated Justin much like Sparky Anderson treated Gibby in their days with the Tigers. Gibby will admit that he didn't understand it until later in life. And that was the type of tough love he was using with Justin as well.
MLB.com: So you're coming off a 2011 season that was a surprise and a 2012 season that was a disappointment. Where do you think the club is now?
Hall: Well, last year was a disappointment. Even though it was an 81-81 season, we expected to do a lot more. The National League West is a very tough division. The fact that anyone can win in any season is great for competitive balance and our fans. The simple fact that the Giants have dominated two of the last three years and we were sandwiched in between, that's a good sign for us. We'll have a payroll north of $90 million. That's our highest since our 2001 championship year. So we're on the rise.
MLB.com: On top of all this, you guys are hosting the World Baseball Classic on March 7-10 at Chase Field and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Hall: It's going to be a blast. We bid for it because we were hosts for the first round of the first one in 2006 and we thought it was such a success. It's a great way to introduce fans to our brand, just as we did two years ago with the All-Star Game. It's going to be nice to host Team USA at Salt River Fields. To me, it's like an open-house sales opportunity for us, showcasing what I think is the best Spring Training facility to players who have never been there. Chase Field is going to be home to the big games. The U.S.-Mexico game on Friday night, March 8, should be quite an event. We'll continue to market to our Hispanic friends and across the border to Mexico and hopefully get visitors up here again to watch those games. Last time, we couldn't keep merchandise on the shelf and the World Baseball Classic is much more popular now.
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.