WHEN YOU can't afford a seat at the old ball game, it gets hard to root for the home team. That's why the Arizona Diamondbacks have instituted a "season-ticket scholarship program" for fans facing economic difficulty. A small number of fans judged worthy by the team will receive free season tickets in Chase Field's lower levels. "The idea came to me that we should be doing this for our fans, for those that don't have the financial means," team president Derrick Hall says. "And there's been nothing more rewarding."
The franchise accepted applications for the 2008 season online until Dec. 1, giving first priority to current season-ticket holders. The D-Backs' evaluation panel settled on seven winners, including an original season-ticket holder suffering from arthritis whose spouse was newly unemployed, and a recovering victim of Arizona's so-called Serial Shooter in 2006. "When we called each of these families," says Hall, "there was shock and surprise, [sometimes] tears on the phone." Hall may be doing more than helping D-Backs fans; he may be starting a trend. Other franchises, including the Miami Dolphins, have asked for tips on how to coordinate scholarship programs of their own.