Diamond fans become volunteer gems - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Diamond fans become volunteer gems

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Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2011 3:15 pm

Besides wanting to live in a family-friendly community, part of the reason Aleta Basio moved to Surprise was to be near Surprise Stadium and experience spring training.

After attending a fan fest at the stadium several years ago, Basio knew she had to become part of the action that includes the smell of hot dogs, organ music played between innings and the laid-back atmosphere spring baseball provides fans.

But rather than just being a fan who attends games, Basio and other philanthropic people say volunteering their time as members of the Sundancers gives them great satisfaction.

From traffic control in parking lots and tearing tickets at the front gate, to selling programs and ushering fans to their seats, Basio said the Sundancers can be seen everywhere in Surprise Stadium to offer a helping hand or a warm smile.

“It’s nice to see the same people return year after year. Even if I speak to them for a minute or two, it’s nice to catch up,” she said. “I met the father of one of the Royals pitchers this year and even met (former Arizona Diamondback Luis Gonzalez) Gonzo one year.”

The nine-year volunteer has nine Kachina pins commemorating her service in Surprise Stadium. With the construction of several new Valley spring training ballparks, Basio said fans continue to say how well-groomed Surprise Stadium looks after nearly a decade.

“People like this one the best and that they can see the action from anywhere in the stadium,” she said.

Founded in 2002, the Surprise Sundancers are the official charitable arm of the Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers and city of Surprise. The nonprofit enlists more than 750 members, who provide volunteer services at the Surprise Recreation Campus and other city special events.

As a nonprofit volunteer organization, the Sundancers raise charitable donations and receive contributions to support greater Northwest Valley youth-related programs and projects.

“I can’t get enough of that,” Wes Kuhn said of the Sundancers’ philanthropic nature.

Kuhn, another nine-year volunteer, said all the Sundancers are close and share a love for baseball, particularly because spring training provides a more intimate atmosphere.

“Plus, the ballpark is easy to get to, and there’s free parking,” said the 71-year-old Sun City West resident. “Everybody is in a better mood for spring training.”

A winter visitor who calls Seattle home, Kuhn said he doesn’t attend many Mariners games because of the high price and time it takes to park and get into the stadium.

“I get my fill of baseball here,” Kuhn said.

Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or zcolick@yourwestvalley.com.

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