Spring Training in Tucson: A special day for a special girl

2013-03-22T00:00:00Z Spring Training in Tucson: A special day for a special girlDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Christina-Taylor Green's favorite part of a baseball game wasn't a home run or an amazing defensive play.

She was a sucker for the national anthem, and when she went to games with her dad, John, she let him know it.

"Every time I go to a game, could be two or three in a day, when they do the national anthem, that's my little time to spend with her," Green said.

Boy, she would have loved Thursday at Kino Stadium.

With a sold-out crowd of 11,118 fans in the seats and her mom, dad and brother on the field on a perfect day for baseball, "The Star Spangled Banner" played loud and clear Thursday for everyone to hear.

The Los Angeles Dodgers then beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4, though the result wasn't what was important.

The Dodgers made the trip to Tucson for the third straight year to play in a spring training game that benefits the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation. Christina-Taylor, 9, was one of six people killed during the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting at a congressional meet-and-greet hosted by then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Last year's game raised more than $100,000; this year's game will likely surpass that total. All the proceeds from Thursday's gate go to the foundation.

"It's fun to be a part of this game," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "You see a full house and you have the excitement around the game for a good reason. It really makes you feel good about what we're doing."

The matchup was a perfect one for the Green family. John is a national crosschecker for the Dodgers and has the support of the entire organization whenever he needs it.

The Greens also have a strong connection to the Cubs. John played in the Cubs' minor league system for parts of four seasons; his father, Dallas, was the general manager of the franchise from 1982-87.

In other words, Thursday's matchup was a perfect one.

"The Cubs have a special place in our hearts," Green said. "My dad was an opinionated figure, and he changed the whole organization for a couple of years for the better or worse. Something had to change, and he went for 100 percent change."

Dallas Green is credited for helping start the campaign for lights to be installed at Wrigley Stadium.

And John Green's current employer has always been good to his family. Los Angeles star Matt Kemp made the trip to Tucson for the third straight year and was joined by a handful of teammates who have also had successful big league games.

Kemp said after the game that he will come back anytime he's asked.

"It's for a great charity," Kemp said. "They always ask us to come down here and do this, and I have no problems with it. You get to see a lot of Dodgers fans and play in front of a bunch of fans and raise some money.

"It's always great to come down here and show your support for this cause."

That was the general consensus Thursday. Everybody was happy to be at Kino Stadium, and they all seemed to have a connection to the cause.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum and John Green both worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in the early 2000s.

"It's a nice way to show respect to what happened here," Sveum said. "We can come down and throw a baseball game and raise money for the foundation - these are the types of things you don't mind playing a split-squad day-night game. It's a great cause to be a part of."

Cubs outfielder Scott Hairston, who attended Canyon del Oro High School for part of his senior year, jumped at the chance to play in Thursday's game. His parents and two sisters live in Tucson and did in 2011 when Christina-Taylor was killed.

"I was hoping I would be chosen to come down here," Hairston said. "That hit the city hard when that tragedy happened. I had family here at the time, and it's one of those things that definitely puts things in perspective.

"For us as baseball players, we want to show our support anyway we can.

"We are happy to be a part of it."

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

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