By Lin Sue Flood
Photos courtesy of Hospice of the Valley

Growing up in the Babe Ruth era, Myra Blaker has been a lifelong baseball fan. After moving to Phoenix from Chicago, she pledged loyalty to her hometown Arizona Diamondbacks — even posting their game schedule on her front door. In the weeks leading up to their home opener at Chase Field, all she talked about was baseball.

As a surprise, Blaker’s Hospice of the Valley care team made a great play — pitching her as the inaugural guest of D-Backs Wishes for Seniors. This special program grants once-in-a-lifetime experiences to deserving seniors and is sponsored by the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and Arizona Complete Health.

“We are so honored to partner with the devoted nurses and social workers at Hospice of the Valley to deliver these incredible experiences,” says Debbie Castaldo, D-Backs’ senior VP for Corporate & Community Impact. “It was wonderful to see Myra rooting for her team. She was living her best life!”

On the night of the game, the team covered all the bases. Blaker, who turns 101 in September, got the VIP treatment — premium parking, great seats, free food and drinks, including a beer she insisted on finishing! Hospice of the Valley nurse Kelly McGovern and social worker Renee Adams came along to monitor her oxygen and make sure Blaker had the time of her life. Paul Piperata, her caregiver at Weyrich Health Care Center in Scottsdale, also joined the fun, and kindly arranged for a seven-passenger van with wheelchair access.

As they took their seats near the on-deck circle, Blaker whispered, “Look how close we are! We can even see what they keep in their pockets!”

Blaker’s daughter, Laura, says she couldn’t remember seeing her mom so excited. “The D-Backs hit a homerun with Mom. She loved every single minute and never stopped smiling!”

About the fifth inning, McGovern started to wonder if the centenarian might want to leave early. “Not a chance,” Blaker insisted. “I won’t miss a single play!”

Just when the baseball fanatic thought nothing could top the magical evening, D-Backs legend Luis Gonzalez came by to visit. “I can’t believe they are making such a fuss over me!” she gushes.

“She will never forget this,” says Adams. “At Hospice of the Valley, we’re honored to help make our patients’ dreams come true. We are so grateful to be part of this tremendous night.”

Contact the team to learn more about the D-backs Wishes for Seniors program. To learn more about Hospice of the Valley, call (602) 530-6900 or visit