Annual Winter Classic From D-Backs and University of Phoenix Returns Holiday Cheer to Arizona Children

Photo by Megan Ellis on Unsplash

Although the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Winter Classic returned to the Diamondbacks’ stadium for December 2021. The event represents a partnership between the team and University of Phoenix and brings holiday delight and hope to hundreds of local Arizona school children.

“The Winter Classic is one of our premier giving events taking place here with the kids,” said Derrick Hall, Diamondbacks president and CEO in a video recap from the December 10 event. “Last year we had to skip it because of the virus,” he said, adding that this year they spread the event over three days, inviting one school to participate at a time in order to hold the event safely. “We had to pivot,” said Hall, “but it’s only because we love this event so much, we care about these kids, we want them to enjoy themselves.” In all, 468 local school children participated in the Winter Classic, and over 100 University of Phoenix employees volunteered at the event.

University of Phoenix Chief Academic Officer and Provost John Woods, PhD said in the event video: “We’ve had a great partnership for a long time with the Diamondbacks… [Hundreds of] volunteers from University of Phoenix signed up in just a couple minutes and that’s typical – they love this event. To see the kids have a great time and play some games – they’re amazed by being down on the field. It is probably my favorite event of our partnership with the Diamondbacks.”

From Baseball Stadium to Winter Wonderland

In honor of the event, Chase Field was transformed into a winter wonderland with stations dedicated to fun interactive activities. These included a Lego station where kids could build a toy and take it home, a batting station for working on their home run swings, a reading corner and an opportunity to meet and get a photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus. A DJ provided festive music while kids from low-income, at-risk schools were given various gifts including sneakers, sweatshirts, backpacks and, from University of Phoenix, lots of age-appropriate books.

“It’s a time for us to bring in kids who are from underrepresented communities,” said Hall. “They come here; it’s a holiday festive feeling. They get to meet Santa, play with Legos and take those home. They get shoes, they get backpacks, they get books, but it’s not just about the gifts. It’s really feeling like a part of the community and a part of our organization.”

D-Backs and University of Phoenix Give Back Together

The Winter Classic is just one of numerous ways that the Diamondbacks and University of Phoenix work together to improve the lives of local community members with a focus on improving education. In collaboration with the University, the D-backs Honor Roll youth education initiative rewards students who have a perfect attendance record, achieved good grades or displayed strong character traits by providing them with tickets to baseball games. The team awards 30,000 baseball tickets through the program each year.

The D-Backs $100,000 School Challenge, run in conjunction with University of Phoenix, awards $5,000 grants to classrooms and schools to help Arizona educators provide the best learning experience for their students. Grants are available in a number of categories including education programs, innovation and technology, nutrition and fitness, and campus improvements with schools invited to “Pitch Us Your Program.”

There is also a scholarship program called the Teaming Up for Education Scholarship that provides five full-tuition scholarships to Arizona residents to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree at University of Phoenix. Through the new D-backs for Change initiative, D-Backs employees are now also eligible for a full-tuition scholarship from University of Phoenix. “Education should hold practical value, and that’s why we chose to offer the ‘D-backs for Change’ scholarship through the University of Phoenix,” said Hall. “We know that they are committed to student success and accessibility, making a college degree more attainable. We are proud to collaborate on this scholarship and bring life changing support to someone’s academic journey.”

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is committed to advancing the educational goals of adult and nontraditional learners and provides maximum support for them to achieve their goals more affordably. The University provides options that working adults need including numerous scholarship opportunities, flexible schedules, online learning and career-guided degree programs. In addition, the Career Services for Life® commitment to active students and graduates can help them more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit