On Monday, ABC15 sat down with Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall to get his take on MLB to Arizona and so many other unknowns.
On the baseball side of things, there have been a lot of ideas thrown around, some of them more wild than others. What are your thoughts on the various scenarios that have been mentioned?
Derrick Hall: I don't think any idea is too wild. I think we've got to look at everything and I think everything's on the table. I find it refreshing that the commissioner's office, Major League Baseball, that they're at least looking for ideas and scenarios and they're tossing them around and trying to find ways for us to play. The big question is when is it appropriate to do so? We just don't know. I mean, we've got to worry about the public, we've got to worry about safety and health. If it's going to be games without crowds, how does that look and how do we still do that without impacting the rest of the public when it comes to testing? And as far as quarantine, there's just so many questions to answer and I think every plan has so many holes in it. It's difficult to put our fingers on one of those ideas saying this is the one, when we just don't know what's going to happen, what the future is with this pandemic.
Do you think it's feasible to create this bubble around bringing all 30 Major League Baseball teams to the Valley, or even the idea of splitting it up amongst the two spring training states?
I'm an optimistic person and I think it's doable. It’s got a lot of challenges, it's got a lot of holes and we'd have to fill those holes before we did it, but it would be extremely tough on the players too. And on the staff. And how does that happen? Is it with families, without family? And for how long and how many games? What does the weather look like? I realize there are issues. I'm in a different seat because, you know, being from Arizona, I was one of the first to say, oh it'll work. I've had some say, well, aren't you a little selfish when it comes to this because you want to help your economy? Absolutely. You know, I do want to help our economy here in Arizona and I do see some advantages, obviously more than just playing the games. But again, it really comes down to safety and to making sure that we're taking the proper steps. You have to make sure that the public, and in this case, the state is ready for that. That they're ready to welcome so many people from all over the world back into this environment here, and then we can play games in a very safe way.
What do you see as the biggest hurdles to clear from a player standpoint and from an ownership/organizational standpoint?
I think first off, we've got to get players back in playing shape. They shouldn't be far off. I know our guys have been told do all you can to make it a seamless transition, but they were so close, you know. You think back to when we were playing here in spring training and we went from a Fanfest where there were over 40,000 fans into Salt River Field games with sellouts and so much excitement for this team and our pitchers were being stretched out and near their pitch counts, where they needed to be and then it just all came to a halt. So I think we’ve got to figure out a way to get back on the field first and then figure out how many games they're going to be and where they're going to play. And it looks like if we ever do play it at any point during the season, which we certainly hope, that we would pick up wherever the schedule was because we created those schedules for a reason, and then we all built our schedules for our facilities and for our employees based on those schedules. So if and when we do get running again, it's got to be from that same point forward, but a lot to consider, a lot to worry about just to get there.
Do you believe there will be baseball played in 2020?
I hope so. I think each day that goes by, you wonder a little more, but I've always been optimistic that we're going to play games. We haven't had games cancelled at this point, they've just been postponed, but we'll have to see how long into the summer we go. The beauty is there's so many different scenarios as we've talked about where if you needed to, you could play in cities where it's a little warmer late into the season or into the early part of winter, late part of fall. We've just got to get this thing under control as we've been doing and make sure that we continue to do our parts and flattening the curve. And I think here in Arizona, we're doing a tremendous job. We just have to continue to do it and not get ahead of ourselves.
From a financial standpoint, what kind of projections are you guys looking at? And if the season does go on, but without fans, what does that scenario look like?
It's tough. We're all in the business of gathering crowds, and it's a time where we really can't do it. So as you can imagine, all our financial projections do include just that, it's fans and attendance. There are ways that you can get around it, where you don't have crowds, but eventually you've got to bridge that gap and get them back to the ballpark. I think what's important for people right now is optimism and hope and being able to see the games at some point. What we've seen with baseball over the years is it's the big return to normalcy, you know, whether it was after wartime or after 9/11, and in this case, it's going to be after coronavirus that baseball is going to help people get back to their normal lives and feel good again, whether they can watch on TV, listen on the radio or go in person. I can't wait for the day for people to be back in the ballpark and hear the crack of the bat right there in front of them and eating a nice hot dog and having a soda.
What's been the biggest change or challenge to try to do your job?
The lack of face to face interaction. It's making sure that we are staying up to speed with one another and to have an organization as large as ours with over 400 full-time employees, and to have so many of our part time employees that are at home waiting, just making sure that we sustain communication, that we're being as transparent as possible during this time and keeping that communication line open but also waiting to see what's going to happen because we just don't know. There's no predicting, and we're all at the mercy of health agencies and of the leagues, and just like you, we’re waiting to see when we can finally play, when we can get on with life.
You bring up your employees. The big news last week was the Coyotes furloughing half of their staff. What's been the Diamondbacks approach to communicating the future with your employees in this state of unknown?
We've been hoping that we would play some games and that we could get back to that normalcy, so we really haven't made any decisions yet. We've told our employees, it's not on our minds right now, but you know, I think we all realize in this economy and this environment that nobody's immune to it, unfortunately. There's a lot of businesses that are struggling and having to make very tough decisions, and we had to make them back in 2008, 2009 during the tough economy, and it's never easy. It's not fun, especially when you have the sort of culture that we do where everybody is like family and they enjoy working each and every day. And I hope we don't have to make those decisions, but we've let them know that we're going to communicate and we have Zoom calls and making sure that we do communicate with them. I send out an email to them once a week or once every two weeks with what's going on in the industry, if there's any changes, but it's tough. We know it's a stressful time for everybody. Not only worried about the pandemic and our own health, but also worrying about our futures and this economy right now.