Debbie Castaldo has been with the Arizona Diamondbacks for 11 years, but the Peoria resident is their unsung heroine.
She serves as the team’s vice president, corporate and community impact, and executive director of the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation. The D-backs Give Back efforts include more than $60 million in charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations throughout the state on behalf of the D-backs and the foundation.
“If you had asked me if I’d ever end up doing this, I never would have guessed in a million years,” she said.
“The culture created under (managing general partner) Ken Kendrick is unsurpassed.”
When he hired Castaldo in 2009, he gave her a blank canvas — and that was during the financial crisis.
“He said we need to do more than ever, so let’s get ‘em. Let’s do this,” she said. “We started to build a legacy here that started before the team was ever a team. We continued to escalate those efforts. We’ve become a community leader.”
During Castaldo’s tenure, community involvement with corporate partners has grown to include integrated philanthropic programs with APS, Arizona Lottery, Chase, Crescent Crown Distributing, Dignity Health, Fox Sports Arizona, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Sanderson Ford, University of Phoenix, Fry’s Food Stores and Safelite Autoglass.
She also helped create Gonzo’s Hometown Heroes with Luis Gonzalez. In 2014, she worked with Paul and Amy Goldschmidt to create Goldy’s Fund for Kids supporting Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
“We raise money, but more importantly, we make an impact,” she said. “We solve problems for our community. It’s hard work. We’re out front doing it every single day. That makes this job so rewarding.
The D-backs are committed to the community, she said, and demonstrate it through the D-backs Youth Jersey Program, which provides jerseys and hats to youth baseball and softball leagues in Arizona. This year, with help from Fry’s, Tide and Steward Health, the program expanded to 115 leagues and 70,000 players and coaches.
Spearheaded by Castaldo, the team has dedicated 42 youth baseball field — mostly in the name of D-backs players and staff.
The team’s charitable efforts recently surpassed $65 million in charitable giving in real dollars. Castaldo’s goal is $100 million.
“In addition to that, we have 120 Little League participants in the youth jersey program,” she said. “Our true legacy is to continue to grow the game of baseball and softball at a time when purchasing a baseball glove is out of reach. We want to be the solution to keeping kids on the field.”
Castaldo earned a degree in business administration and marketing from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1992.
Before the D-backs, she worked for St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center as director of philanthropic innovation.
Prior to joining St. Joseph’s, Castaldo was the director of strategic partnerships for Westcor Shopping Centers, but she began her career in Arizona with Alltel, heading up marketing operations for the wireless company’s Southwest region. As general manager of marketing at Alltel, her responsibilities included marketing, advertising, public relations, community affairs, sports marketing and product development.
She and her husband, Vince, were introduced to the West Valley through his time with the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization.
“We moved to Arizona in ’96 initially to Glendale,” she said. “We’ve been in Peoria for 20 years. It’s an unbelievable place to raise kids — all the activities, the access to parks, the public schools. We’re huge public school advocates.
“I worked on the budget override a few years ago. I really try to give back.”
Their sons, Jake and Zack, attended Centennial High School.
Castaldo further made her mark on the West Valley as an honorary commander at Luke Air Force Base, which boasts the Mark Grace Thunderbolt Field. She was inspired by Lt. Col. Katie (Taboo) Gaetke, the third female F16 squadron commander. She led the 309th Fighter Squadron at Luke
Air Force Base. Now she works with Lt. Col. Kristin (Mother) Hubbard, who leads the 310th Fighter
“They’re completely inspiring,” she said. “Katie’s husband Matt flies stealth bombers. They’re a power couple. I’m very blessed to know them. They’re so much fun and they’re fun to learn from and observe.
“I admire the roles that they play no only in the entire marketplace and the West Valley, but to get and know their individual selfless approach to protecting our country and trying to raise their kids. It’s quite the work-life balance.”
Castaldo said the reasons behind her success are simple: She picks topics she’s passionate about.
“When you pick things you love and are passionate about, you always find time,” she said.
“We do things as a family, too. When you’re doing things as a family, it doesn’t feel like work. Plus, from myself on down and all the way to the top (at the Diamondbacks), we’re extremely passionate, genuine and authentic. We love doing what we’re doing. When we see a child having success in school and in life, I know some of those lessons were learned on a baseball field.”