D'Backs Tour Visit Delights Rim Country Middle School Students

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The message from the three Arizona Diamondbacks representations was the same -- make wise life decisions and don't waste the talent given you.

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Winners of the essay contest at Rim Country Middle School in Payson got autographs, pictures and a lunch with players and commentators of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. Front row from left to right are Sam Grassel, Taylor Petersen, Keely Christensen and Hunter Barr. Diamondback announcers and players from left to right are Tom Candiotti, Stephen Drew, Chip Hale, Doug Slaton and Jeff Munn. Candiotti and Munn call the play-by-play and analyze the games as they progress.

That's the advice pro players Stephen Drew, Doug Slaten and coach Chip Hale told an overflow crowd or Rim Country Middle School students during a special assembly held Feb. 7 in Wilson Dome.

The Diamondbacks were visiting Payson as part of the team's annual Hometown Tour, presented by Arizona Public Service.

The RCMS students permitted to attend the presentation were those who had lived up to a school-wide good behavior and achievement code.

During the about 1-1/2-hour assembly, Diamondback broadcasters Tom Candiotti, a former major league pitcher, and Jeff Munn served as masters of ceremonies.

In short speeches to the student body, Drew, Slaten and Hale's advice to the teenagers was to excel scholastically and to make good life choices.

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Sid Pearce bounces around third base as fast as he can while teammates Savannah Flores, right and Alisha Bayless, center, shout encouragement, along with Chip Hale, third-base coach for the Diamondbacks.

Slaten told the students he had been raised in an area rich with talented athletes capable of someday becoming huge successes in any endeavor they chose.

But, he said, some never lived up to their God-given talent because they either lacked positive attitudes, a strong work ethic or made poor choices when confronted by challenges.

The trio also participated with the students in several amusing games and skits. There were also several award presentations, including a trip to lunch with the Diamondback players, coaches and announcers.

Sam Grassel, Hunter Barr, Keely Christensen and Taylor Petersen won those for their award winning essays on "Why I want to go to lunch with the Diamondbacks."

Petersen's winning essay expressed her affection for the sport, "I love everything about baseball, I love getting dirty, the way the grass smells and it is very fun."

She also wrote that going to lunch with the Diamondbacks would "be a great experience and I will always remember it."

The player who probably drew the most attention from the teens, especially the girls, was Drew, a 25-year-old shortstop.

A first round draft choice out of Florida State in 2004, Drew -- complete with matinee-idol good looks --rew cheers when he told the audience his favorite pastimes were hunting and fishing.

"With those (interests) he could probably be elected mayor of Payson," Munn deadpanned.

Last season, during Drew's first full year in the majors, he hit .238, slugged 12 home runs and drove in 60 RBIs.

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Hands are up and eager as students wave frantically to get their questions to the floor.

Slaten, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 200-pound relief pitcher was making his second visit to the Rim Country.

Last spring, he was among the pro players who participated in a Hometown Tour youth baseball clinic held at Payson High School.

During the 2007 season, Slaten compiled a 3-2 record with a 2.72 ERA.

He was a 17th-round draft pick by the Diamondbacks in 2000.

Following the Diamondbacks appearance in Payson, the team continued the tour in Show Low, Snowflake, Globe and at the Gila River Casino Wild Horse Pass.

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