ANAHEIM, Calif. — What started with a fun tweet — a picture of Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz holding a Justin Bieber baseball card — has officially blown up.
“The only thing missing is Bieber himself,” D-backs reliever David Hernandez said Friday afternoon.
That may change, too. The D-backs players have floated the idea of inviting pop icon Bieber and his opening act, Carly Rae Jepson, to visit Chase Field during their concert tour that includes a stop in Phoenix on Sept. 29, and D-backs president/CEO Derrick Hall said the team will reach out to Bieber’s people. The D-backs play a home game against the Chicago Cubs that night.
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Will it happen? Call it a maybe.
But if it does, Bieber’s core of believers may camp out around Chase Field the way they did around the NBC TV studios Thursday night in New York City before Bieber made an appearance on Friday morning’s edition of “Today.”
“We are checking to see if he can throw out the first pitch and come hang out in the locker room,” said D-backs reliever Brad Ziegler, who started the chain of events when he brought packs of Bieber trading cards into the clubhouse in Texas earlier in the week.
“Let’s see if we get them both down. That would be something all our kids would enjoy, if nothing else. I have a 4-year-old daughter. She likes music and she likes dancing.”
This thing has gotten almost bigger than Bieber, as if that were possible.
It all started Monday, when Ziegler went to the Panini trading card company offices in Fort Worth, Texas, to sign an autograph contract with them on the D-backs’ off day before a three-game series against the Rangers.
Ziegler is a big card collector, and he also sells some as a side business. During a tour of the facility, he noticed stacks of Bieber packs among the baseball, football and hockey cards. He brought some Bieber cards back as a lark, a way to lighten the mood during what has been an up-and-down season.
“It was like, ‘I have to get these for J.J.,'” Ziegler said.
“It’s all in good fun. The season has been disappointing so far, and we are trying to stay relaxed and not get so uptight about things and feel the pressure. We are still very much in the thick of a race, and there is a lot of time left. If we can get everybody relaxed and go out and play like they are capable … whatever it takes.”
When Putz opened a pack that contained a card with Bieber’s autograph, things changed. An autographed Bieber card comes in one of about 5,000 packs, Ziegler was told. Some internet research showed the last Bieber autographed card sold for about $4,500. It was the only one of its kind.
Ziegler tweeted a picture he took from his phone of Putz holding the Bieber card and smiling broadly, and it went viral. Websites all over the place picked it up, and Ziegler said he has gained about 500 followers in the interim.
Putz, who claims he is not a fan of Bieber, first thought of taking the card home to his 7-year-old twin daughters. With encouragement from teammates, however, Putz is considering auctioning the card off, with the proceeds to go to the foundations of bullpen mates Ziegler and Craig Breslow.
Ziegler supports the US military and their families through his Pastime for Patriots foundation. Breslow has raised about $1.4 million through his Strike 3 Foundation to heighten awareness, mobilize support and raise funding for childhood cancer research.
“That would be cool,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of a possible donation.
Putz was unavailable for comment while working on a draft of a press release on the team plane Thursday, but nothing has been finalized. Ziegler and Breslow can only imagine the boost that would bring.
“At this point, I think we both realize that value that every dollar donated could have. So when we get a potential large donation, your eyes kind of light up. Man, we can do so much with this,” Ziegler said.