“Inside the Core” is a month-long interview series with members of the Fresno Grizzlies front office. Each interview will be unique in its own way and provide a glimpse into the path each member has forged on their way to working for the club.
Q: Having lived in Fresno since you were born, have you ever been tempted to change locations?
CW: Yes, I actually have. Following my last position in education back in 2012, I left for an internship with the San Jose Sabercats of the Arena Football League. I got a job within the football operations department where I basically did the job of a scout at their training facility. I studied film of incoming players or players who had been cut from NFL Rosters. I did that for three months until I got called for a full-time job back here with the Fresno Grizzlies.
Q: How did you feel about coming back to Fresno?
CW: It was bittersweet to be honest, because I was looking for that experience to branch out and try something new. But, it also felt good knowing that I was returning to a good support system. I had interned at Grizzlies in 2011 so it was very familiar coming back.
Q: What about Fresno resonates with you the most?
CW: Family. I have a relatively small family so I’ve always looked to my group of friends as my extended family. Fresno for me has always been home. Also, I think Fresno State is a big factor in my life because I’m an alumnus there and it’s a big sense of pride. I was the first person to graduate high school from my mother’s side of the family and the first person to graduate college from either side.
Q: Who was your hero growing up?
CW: My dad as far as family goes. He was a humble, hardworking guy. He was a mechanic his whole life and worked two jobs at times to support the family. I think my work ethic and humility come from him. On the flip-side my grandfather on my mom’s side was the sports nut. He was the one who followed baseball and all types of sports. He inspired my competitive nature and ultimately got me really into sports.
Q: As a kid, what did you think you’d grow up to be?
CW: As a kid, actually other than sports, I was addicted to marine biology. I always wanted to swim with Shamu or something. I loved the Monterey Bay Aquarium and I wanted to work with animals in the ocean. I had a passion for being close to the beach.
Q: Can you describe your best childhood memory?
CW: When I was about 13 years old I got to go on an RV trip from Fresno all the way to Galveston, Texas with my grandparents and two cousins. For 33 days I was in a motorhome traveling across the United States. It was my first time out of California. The highlight of the entire trip was getting to visit NASA in Houston. It really inspired all of the creative juices that got me into wanting to further my life and education.
Q: Where did you go to high school?
CW: I went to Edison High School (Fresno, Calif). I was in a program called G.A.T.E., which stood for Gifted and Talented Education.
Q: Did you participate in any extracurricular activities?
CW: Yes, I played football and baseball all the way through high school. I also participated in journalism briefly with the student newspaper writing for the sports section my sophomore and junior year. I started working at the age of 16 at Carl’s Jr. so there wasn’t much time for anything else.
Q: How would you describe your college experience?
CW: I had a different college experience than most. Out of high school I thought I was done with school. I went to the military briefly and I was medically separated. I came back and started working. Then I decided a couple of years later that I needed to go back to school. I didn’t start college until I was 21, but I was really honed in on what I was trying to accomplish. I didn’t do a lot of partying or anything like that. I really got in the zone with school and not only completed my bachelors, but also received my masters degree in a little over five years.
Q: Is it right you initially pursued a kinesiology major before switching majors?
CW: I started college thinking that I was going to do something in the field of pharmacy. That quickly changed after I took a couple classes. From there, I wanted to get into physical therapy. I always had a passion or interest in the medical field. I thought it would be a fun, good-paying job. I started doing kinesiology and after two years of doing exercise science, I decided that my mind was more business and people savvy than scientific, so I switched to sports administration. That allowed me to be comfortable and more me.
Q: What encouraged you to get your graduate degree?
CW: I always knew that I wanted to pursue something beyond a bachelors degree when I was in college. I think a bachelors degree is not as powerful as it once was. Another reason is I felt once I started working in the industry, I would be so consumed that I probably wouldn’t have time go back and get it later. I have always had a passion for education. I worked in education before sports for about six years and having the ability to go back and teach is something I now have the ability to do.
Q: Now a little removed from college, did you ever imagine yourself in the position you’re in now?
CW: Yea, I think so. The moment that I committed to a sports administration degree I knew that I was going to do something in sports. I didn’t know exactly what, but I always felt passion of working with the game, athletes, a coaching staff, things like that.
Q: As you move forward, what are some goals you’ve set for yourself?
CW: I think baseball or sport operations is the career field I want to go into, so I really want to work towards learning that craft, and hopefully get into a position where I can progress to Director of Baseball Operations. This season is my first year as baseball operations coordinator so right now it’s really about learning the lingo, the trade, and getting used to how everything runs.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in your new role as Baseball Operations Coordinator where your main duty will be Visiting Clubhouse Manager?
CW: For me, it’s learning. I have a dedication to learning and I believe this isn’t the last stop on my road. I think that learning the ins and outs of this job is very important for my future. I’m really excited about what my role will be like a few years down the road.
Q: What is your favorite part about your job?
CW: This is tough, because I love my job but I would say my favorite part is the fact of getting to be around sports every day. I think there’s something special about sports beyond what’s between the lines. Being around the atmosphere is rewarding, but it can also be very consuming with your life and a lot of times you have to spend long hours, long nights, and early mornings around work. There’s no 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. that’s for sure. You have to try and squeeze in time with family and friends as best you can.
Q: Any experiences that shaped who you are?
A: There is one thing. I did a lot of coaching and my very first season coaching I did really bad. My teams weren’t very good. I coached my first football team and I think we only won one game. The following season I coached basketball and I ended up breaking my arm in practice. That basketball season we finished the season 21-5. There’s just something humbling about getting knocked down and then being able to pick yourself up by the boot straps and come back and still be a leader. So I think as far as my career goes I think one of my strongest traits is being a leader.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
CW: I still love to participate in sports. I play indoor soccer currently and in the past I’ve played in a baseball league. I still often play basketball, football, and also lift weights and stay active.
Q: If you were to describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is a quote that resonates with you?
CW: “Success is not final, failure is never fatal, but its courage that counts.” – Winston Churchill. It’s a quote that reminds me, do not get to high on your successes, don’t get too low on your failures, and just be brave and have courage.
“Inside the Core” is a month-long interview series with members of the Fresno Grizzlies front office. Each interview will be unique in its own way and provide a glimpse into the path each member has forged on their way to working for the club.
Did you play baseball as a kid?
I started playing baseball when I was probably six or seven years old and then played all the way until I was 16.
You weren’t one of those kids wanting to go to the Major Leagues?
I think every kid wants to be a professional baseball player or some kind of pro athlete.
You were born in Redwood City, California, so when did you move to Clovis?
What did you picture yourself doing outside of high school?
Something in sports. I wanted to be an agent when I was growing up, but then I realized how much law school you need for that so I rerouted into another direction. But, I always knew I wanted to do something in sports, whether it was youth sports or professional.
Did you have a role model growing up?
Growing up my favorite baseball player was Kevin McReynolds from the New York Mets. The Mets were my favorite team when I was a kid simply because McReynolds played outfield and I was an outfielder as a kid. He was probably the one I always looked up to as a kid growing up.
First part-time job?
My first job was at Wild Water Adventures. I was a catering cook making $4 an hour to work over a hot barbecue the entire summer. It was terrible!
You parlayed the teenage job into a full-time gig in radio. Where was your first radio job?
First radio marketing job was here in Fresno for KRZR and B95.
Being that it was your first job in radio, were you nervous to get in the studio?
No, you know what, it was one of those things where I did every job nobody wanted to do. I wanted to learn as much as I could so when someone said ‘I don’t want to do that’ or ‘I want to be on vacation’ I could step in and do it. And I kind of take the same route now that if someone doesn’t want to do something I’ll just do it myself and get it done because I want to learn more. Every day is a new opportunity for you to figure out how to do something new, whether it’s at work, a job assignment, or something else.
What led you to move to Las Vegas?
A radio marketing job. It was a big change. I was 24. It was pretty cool because I moved to a city that is 24 hours a day and never stops, and it truly never stops. But that’s where I started growing more of my passion with baseball because they had the Las Vegas 51s Triple-A team, and I was always going to their games for promotions and marketing. Between the job and attending games, it sparked my excitement in wanting to learn more about the business side of professional baseball.
The tough part about [Las Vegas] is the constant 24-hour cycle. With radio, you have events that don’t start until 2:00 a.m. so you’ll be working all day and you go home for a couple hours only to turn around and head back to work until 6:00 a.m.
What brought you back to Clovis?
My wife’s job transferred us back to Fresno. She’s from Fresno as well. Luckily, I was able to stay in sports marketing.
You latched on with ESPN Radio, right? How was that?
It was great. I worked for a really good guy who gave me an opportunity to learn a lot more about sports marketing. Working for ESPN, they provide a lot of tools that you don’t get anywhere else. It was always funny because you’d say oh I work for ESPN radio, and everybody’s thinking ‘Oh my god you work in Bristol, Connecticut?’ And it’s like no, I work here in Fresno and they’re like, ‘Oh how’s that work?’ And you have to explain to them that it’s a private owner that owns the affiliate here. But you know, when you up and say, you know I’m with ESPN radio, those four letters are like magic.
How has it been to be back living in Clovis where you grew up?
Um, very weird. My family now lives a half mile from where I grew up. It’s very, very weird to see that whole area when it was nothing and now how big and grown up it is.
We have to ask… where did you meet your wife?
I met her at Porky’s Bar and Grill (laughs). Classy establishment! I was doing a radio event there and we met by um, how do you say it, “cheersing” Corona bottles. Well, there’s always a dispute there. There’s still a dispute 14 years later but…
You two have a son and a daughter, but did you always picture having children?
I always wanted kids, at least two kids. I wanted three kids but we were blessed to have two kids, a boy and a girl, so it worked out really well.
What’s the defining moment in your life thus far?
Seeing my kids born was probably the coolest thing to ever see happen. Your first born comes and you think right away how much your life has changed. I freaked out when that happened. I had a panic attack that day; I was like what the hell is going on.
Do you and your wife do anything without the kids?
No, we’re very active in our kid’s lives whether it’s with school, extracurricular activities, baseball, soccer, or travel basketball. We’re doing these things all the time so we don’t really have a lot of time to ourselves. With my work here during the baseball season most of my summer is already spoken for. But I will tell you something, when you get into a relationship with someone, whether you work in baseball or radio, you have to find that person who understands the demands it’s going to be, because not everybody can handle being away from somebody for long periods of time. I think it’s better for our relationship that we’re not together all of the time. We’re both able to have time to ourselves and time with the kids. We make the most of all of the chances we get to spend as a family.
Those opportunities get a little tougher with the Minor League Baseball schedule. When you joined the Fresno Grizzlies in 2011, what position did you enter as?
I came in as VP of Marketing and since then I’ve taken over the operations and the team store aspects. Each year has presented new challenges, but I’m glad with the positive steps the organization has made in a short period of time.
Is there any time for summer vacations?
Usually at least one! The kids like going to Pismo. Two years ago we went to Phoenix to see Tombstone and the Grand Canyon. Last year we took them to the Triple-A All-Star game in Reno because I had to be up there for work and it was kind of a cool thing for them to accompany me on. They had a great time.
We learned your favorite TV show is Seinfeld. Ever have a Seinfeld moment with the Grizzlies?
I always feel like I’m George Costanza, I always feel that way. Working the different areas here there is always something happening or you’re seeing something that’s happening and it’s just like, how is this possibly happening?! There’s a Kramer here, there’s a Jerry here, and there’s definitely an Elaine Benes here. I think every character from Seinfeld works in this organization.
What’s a motto you live by?
Just don’t ever put yourself above anything. Don’t ever think you’re too good to do something. You know, just because you have a title and just because you’re at certain level with a company, you can always do things to help out others. Always follow your dreams and don’t ever have anybody tell you that you can’t do something. Lastly, always be family oriented.
Part three of the Behind the Bobble series winds down with the final planning and production process of the Matt Cain bobblehead. These final stages included final approval and sponsorship inclusion.
Bobblehead and sponsor must be approved by the Grizzlies before the Chinese New Year begins. Once the holiday begins, the production factory shuts down for three weeks. With the Matt Cain promo scheduled for May 18th, missing these three weeks can be the difference in receiving the bobbleheads in time or having fans wonder why the Grizzlies didn’t deliver on their promotion. As we all know, bobbleheads are not something to mess around with when it comes to Minor League Baseball fans.
Almost to the finish line. If you notice, the green on the back is a lighter shade of green from the front of the base. To keep it consistent, we asked the production company to make the same color throughout the base, front and back.
One of the crucial parts of all giveaways: the sponsor. The final mock-up was sent to us with the sponsor added, PG&E.
Sponsorships of giveaways allows two businesses to work together to grow. With PG&E, the inclusion on the bobblehead is a component of the larger sponsorship deal. By including them, they are gaining the visibility on an item that fans will display at home or in the office for a long time. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are able to offset some of the costs of the giveaway item while still hoping to increase ticket sales for that particular game.
Want to see the final version of the Matt Cain Farm Grown Bobblehead? Come out to the game on May 18th at Chukchansi Park!
Ramirez struck out the first batter in the 8th inning, but fell short after walking the next three batters Jordan Brown, Ed Lucas and Bryan Petersen. Ramirez was then replaced with Rosario who got the Grizzlies out of the bases loaded and saved the game.
Plays of the Game
Perez hits a HR on the 2nd pitch of the game off of Brad Hand.
Dominguez hits a 3 run homerun off of Brad Hand in the bottom of the 1st.
Player of the Game
Juan Perez was the player of the Game with a single, a double and a homerun.
1:28.8 Eloise Golden
Song of the night
Kool & The Gang: Ladies Night
It was Ladies Night at Chuckchansi park tonight.
Fan of the game
Section 214 lady in neon orange leopard pint shirt
Random Fun Fact
Drag Kings performed tonight to Lady Marmalade
Come out to Chukchansi Park tomorrow May 17th for Farm Grown Fridays. There will be a variety of farm grown foods for purchase from the following vendors: Vintage Cheese, Wild West Eggs, Pepichile Adams Olives, Simonian Farming Company, Friar’s Choice, lanna Coffee, Yurosek Pecans, Matt Willemns Inc, Jellyfish Jams, Circle K Ranch and Ortiz Farms. Enjoy amazing fresh farm grown food during the game and a post game firework show brought to you by Bayer Crop Science.
California State Senator Berryhill will also be joining us tomorrow night to speak about Farm Forum in The CRU Club at 5pm. Farm Forums are a series of “meet the speaker” engagements that will take place at every Friday home game during the 2013 season. This event will provide those involved in the agricultural industry, as well as those interested in agriculture, an opportunity to interact with representatives from government, businesses, non-profit, education, and health and wellness. Former Fresno mayor Alan Autry will be hosting all of the Farm Forums and the purchase of a ticket will include CRU club seating for the game.
Welcome to part two of the “Behind the Bobble” series, showing the creation and progression of the first bobblehead in the 2013 Farm Grown Bobblehead Series. In the first part, we showed the different photos used to help the bobblehead artists design the mock-up.
The first painted images of the Matt Cain bobblehead have arrived! Going from the clay to paint is definitely a night-and-day flip. The detail on the bobblehead is great to see, from the hat to the jersey logo to the Grizzlies sleeve patch.
The one suggestion and fix made to this version was moving him to the left. This will help center him more and not lean so heavily to the right of the base.
This round of moldings shows the Matt Cain bobblehead moved to the left per the suggestions from last time. As shown in the photo (more visible in the photo from behind the bobblehead), the slight change makes a big difference.
To lead up to the first bobblehead in the 2013 Farm Grown Bobblehead Series, it is time to look behind the scenes into the making of the Matt Cain bobblehead.
The first step in creating a bobblehead is finding images of the player. We have to find a pose for the bobblehead, ideally with an accompanying photo.
Thankfully, Cain had a historic outing: a perfect game on June 13, 2012. There was an iconic image after the final out was recorded, Cain fist-pumping with a celebratory look on his face. As a staff, we felt this was a great shot to replicate our bobblehead after as it helped us deliver the message: Farm Grown to Perfection in Fresno.
We also had to find images of Cain from his time with the Grizzlies. Pitchers, especially top prospects, may be tough to gather photos of because they might be here temporarily, not leaving our team photographer an opportunity to get a good collection of photos (see: Lincecum, Tim).
Cain, though, was with the Grizzlies for all of the 2005 season, leaving us a bank of photos to select from. We also have to make sure we get all angles of the player to help show the bobblehead producers the small details of the hat, jerseys, pants, etc.
Up next, we show you the first images of the Cain bobblehead.
Brett Pill had 31 RBIs entering the week, an RBI number held in envy by the rest of the PCL as he was atop the leaderboard. Six games later, and Pill increased his RBI total to 47 RBIs after driving in 16 runs over the week. That is over 2.5 RBIs per game. If Pill only had his RBIs from this past week, he still would rank third on the Grizzlies.
Instead, Pill is leading all of baseball in RBIs, drawing affiliated baseball to drool over his gaudy RBI count. That includes Minors and Majors. The highest total in the MLB (though May 12) is Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers with 40. Pill had 40 midway through last Thursday’s (May 9) game.
Kensuke Tanaka had six stolen bases entering the week, which were tied for the most on the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies second baseman then went on to steal 5 bases (in as many chances) to bump his season total to 11. His 11 stolen bases are tied for the third-most in the PCL (through May 12).
Tanaka has already nearly matched the Grizzlies’ 2012 stolen base leader, Skyler Stromsmoe and his 13 steals.
Tanaka also had 13 stolen bases in all of 2012 with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan. The infielder has stolen as many as 34 stolen bases in a season (2010) during his career. He did have his 2011 season cut short due to a fracture in his left foot, which affected his 2012 campaign and ability to steal bases.
Heath Hembree entered the week tied for second in the PCL in saves, and he left the week as the league lead dog. The right-hander was a perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities, although some of those saves were easier than others.
On May 10 at Nashville, Hembree entered the bottom of the 12th inning of an already long game (there was a one hour, 13 minute delay in the first pitch). The Grizzlies took the lead in the top half of the inning, but Hembree promptly allowed back-to-back singles to lead off the bottom half followed by a walk to load the bases. With the pressure turned up, Hembree locked in by striking out two and inducing a fly out to end the game unscathed.
In his other three outings during the week, Hembree did not allow a hit over 2 2/3 innings. (He did allow an inherited runner to score on May 7, but the run crossed home plate via a sacrifice fly. One cannot blame Hembree completely for doing what he was asked to do: get an out).
The Grizzlies finished the week on a three-game winning streak, and those three wins were not automatic wins either.
Each win in the three-game winning streak was of the come-from-behind nature. On May 10 at Nashville, the Grizzlies scored two runs in the top of the first — only to have that advantage evaporate when the Sounds tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom half of the first and later score one run in each the fourth and sixth innings. No fear, though, as the Grizzlies scored two runs in the seventh that forced extra-innings. The game turned out to be the longest for Fresno this season, but the wait was worth it as they walked away with a 5-4 win in 12 innings.
In the first game of the Memphis series on May 11, the Grizzlies shook off an early-game offensive slumber by breaking out for six runs in the sixth-inning. Pinch-hitter Chris Dominguez capped the frame with a three-run home run.
The next day, on May 12, the Grizzlies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. For the second time in three days, however, the Grizzlies allowed their opponent to flip the Grizzlies’ advantage into a 4-2 lead of their own. The Grizzlies rallied by scoring two runs in the seventh to force extra innings (as they did two days earlier). The only difference in the May 12 game compared to May 10: the Grizzlies scored more than one run in extra-innings. On May 12, the Grizzlies made sure there was no hope for their opponent as Fresno scored three runs in the 11th inning of an eventual 7-4 win.
Chris Heston went 2-0 in his two starts this past week despite posting a 6.55 ERA (8er, 11.0ip). Welcome to the PCL. He did strike out 13 and walk two. The right-hander is fifth in the PCL in strikeouts with 42 through May 12.
The Grizzlies did something they have not done for 1,759 games: win without registering a strikeout. On May 2, Shane Loux, Jake Dunning, and Dan Runzler threw nine innings but did not fan one Sacramento River Cats batter. It did not matter, though, because the trio of hurlers limited Sacramento to five runs – while the Fresno offense supported them with 11 runs.
Prior to this past week, the last time the Grizzlies won a game without striking out a batter was August 21, 2000 at Tucson. Ryan Jensen (7.1 IP) and Jason Davis (1.2 IP) threw in the game.
The Grizzlies have played in a game in which their pitchers did not record a strikeout, though, before the 2000 season. The last time that happened was June 16, 2004, also against Sacramento. The Grizzlies had three games during the 2004 season in which their pitchers did not strike out any of their opponents.
Brett Pill had a hitting streak reach a baker’s dozen. His 13-game hitting streak ended on May 3, but it still matched Roger Kieschnick for the longest hitting streak by a Grizzlies batter this season. Pill had 23 hits over the 13-game stretch.
It fell one game short of tying his career-high hitting streak of 14 games set twice (Last: July 29-August 11, 2010 with Fresno).
Michael Kickham tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings on May 3 vs. Colorado Springs, which was the longest outing so far by a Fresno pitcher this season. It was Kickham’s longest outing since July 12, 2012 with Richmond.
It was the most shutout innings thrown by a Fresno pitcher since another left-hander turned in a complete game shutout on June 21, 2011 vs. Salt Lake: Giants pitcher Barry Zito.
Ok, Zito was on MLB Rehab assignment. He was an established Major League pitcher (read: Cy Young winner), so pitching against Triple-A hitters was a step below from he sees every fifth day currently in his career.
So the last non-MLB-Rehab-assignment Grizzlies pitcher to throw more than 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball before Kickham? Another left-hander familiar to Grizzlies and Giants fans: Madison Bumgarner, on May 28, 2010 vs. Salt Lake.
Carter Jurica delivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Grizzlies’ their first walk-off win of the season as they beat the Sacramento River Cats 8-7 on April 29.
The Grizzlies had 9 walk-off wins in 2012.