Updated March 13, 2017
My last assignment as an electronics engineer in 2001 allowed me to work with Kevin Greenwood at Raytheon Corporation in Tucson. In 2003 I was given four tickets to a game at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. The other three tickets were used by Kevin, his wife Kristin and Ben Hulbert, one of Kevin’s co-workers. An important link was established with Ben because he introduced me to his wife Jennifer and sister-in-law Kathy Popp. At the time Kathy was a Diamondbacks season ticket holder. Kathy, Jen and Ben introduced me to a vast array of fans in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. They are like family members to me and as a result I met many in their family. I was invited to two events by them that really helped me to meet lots of fans. The first invitation came from Ben and Jen for me to speak at their children’s Carden School in Tucson. Fifth grade class teacher Paula Stoner is an avid baseball fan and she not only allowed me to speak (something I love to do) but also had talked the school administrators into allowing a student outing after my talk at a Cactus League game. Yep, Paula is my kind of teacher. The second invitation was to walk with Di’s Dynamos through the Phoenix Zoo to raise funds for Multiple Schlrosis (MS) research. Diana Donnelly is a sister of Kathy and Jen, and she has MS. Hence the team “Di’s Dynamos.” That event allowed me to meet three other Popp sisters, their families and dad Louis Popp. I later joined Ben, Jen and Paula with Paula’s sister Carol at a Dodger Stadium game so that the Hulberts could thank Paula for being such a wonderful teacher. I titled that story in my new book “Way to Go, Paula!!!!” Now when I go to Arizona for baseball games, every effort is made to see my extended family members Kathy, Ben and Jen. The Popp family represents one segment of the Arizona Major League Baseball (MLB) experience. They had no strong ties with other teams and instantly became Arizona Diamondbacks fans when the team was formed in 1998 and the children in the family have grown up with their Dbacks.
Tim Chambers and I met Paul Velaski on the way to Yankee Stadium in 2003. Paul lives in Arizona but was in New York on business. Since that chance meeting, the Velaski family has become my family. When Paul’s son Brandon was an Arizona State University (ASU) student in 2006 majoring in broadcast journalism, he and fellow student Sam Salzwedel produced a video on my ballparks journeys. Brandon was the narrator and Sam the cameraman. They did a tremendous job and the video won an award for them at ASU’s Chronkite School of Broadcast Journalism. While Brandon lived in Arizona, he made a point of seeing at least one game with Tim and me when we are in Arizona. What can I say? The young man is witty and he makes me laugh a lot. Brandon, being a single young man, also knows the best spots to grab a beer and dinner after a game. He now produces the news at Yahoo Sports near San Jose, California. Paul also has been to several games with me since our Yankee Stadium game. In fact, I’ve now been to baseball games with Paul’s wife Wendy, daughter Jenna and son Derek. Jenna recently wed, so her last name is Ostrow. No matter, she still calls me “Uncle Jim.” The Velaski family represents the other part of the Arizona MLB experience. They are transplanted Twins fans from Minnesota, and they remain Twins fans to this day. I know that for sure after seeing a game at Target Field in Minneapolis with Brandon and Jenna.
I hereby present my Arizona Family Connections.