SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Diamondbacks gathered in the clubhouse at Salt River Fields on Wednesday morning to officially begin the 2014 season. As with every new year, it began with an address from leadership.
Managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president Derrick Hall delivered different messages but ultimately got the same point across: The D-backs are here to win.
"For me, it was a lot of hope," Hall said. "But I reminded them that on the first day of workouts all 30 teams are going to have the same feeling and same message that they can win. But the reality is there are only a few that truly do, and I believe we’re one of those teams."
Kendrick’s message was one more of listening. This is the time of year, he stressed, players have the chance to get better and smarter by listening, particularly to a staff like the D-backs’.
"We have, fortunately, an extraordinary group of coaches and a manager who have incredible accomplishments in this game," Kendrick said. "So I encouraged these guys to pay attention."
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said having the whole team hear from Kendrick and Hall helps set the team on a positive course for the year.
"I think it’s great when you can have your owner and president stand up there and express themselves in such a unique way," Gibson said. "We take pride in having a connected organization."
The D-backs enter the year with the largest payroll in team history, eclipsing $100 million for just the second time with this week’s addition of Bronson Arroyo. Kendrick, meeting with reporters, said the high payroll doesn’t necessarily mean greater pressure for the team, rather that the team is in a good place financially and is willing to spend to improve.
Circumstances also have changed over the years, Kendrick said. With new sources of revenue and more on the way, the D-backs have been able to spend more and believe they need to do so.
"In order to compete, you’re going to need to spend more money," Kendrick said. "We’re going to spend money if we see a player that’s going to make a difference."
A buzz went through Salt River Fields shortly before noon when the unthinkable happened: Gibson joined Twitter.
Gibson, under the handle @23KGibby, had sent just one brief tweet:
Gibson, sometimes a critic of the social media platform, said later he had actually set the account up a while back but hadn’t tweeted yet. He finally decided to use it.
"I thought it was something positive," Gibson said. "I’m not a man of a ton of words. I decided it was the day."
Gibson said he isn’t likely to tweet often but hopes he can share an uplifting or insightful message now and then. His son, Kirk Robert, helped set up the account.
Within an hour of his first tweet, Gibson had more than 4,000 followers. By 4 p.m., it was more than 6,000.
"I’m happy for him," Hall said. "This is somebody who encourages our players to be interactive, and social media is probably the best vehicle for interaction with fans. For him to even have an interest in that show’s he values our fans."
* Gibson on Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who announced he will retire after the season: "He’s been unreal. Classy, he’s had a great career. So many people have had the opportunity to look up to him. He’s going to leave such a great legacy. What more can you say about the guy?"
* Hall said season-ticket renewals are currently at 88 percent, ahead of where they were this time last year. The team projects about the same attendance figures for the coming season, but Hall said tickets indicate greater interest from the fan base.