February 2011

Grizzlies Alumni Report: Sergio Romo


Who: Sergio Romo
When He Was a Grizzly: Sergio Romo made three appearances for the Grizzlies in the late summer of 2008. He made three more appearances in a short one week stint with the Grizzlies in 2009.

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Fresno Highlights:
     In Sergio’s six games as a Grizzly, he pitched nine innings from the bullpen and allowed no earned runs.
     Sergio struck out 10 batters while allowing only two free passes.
     Sergio made his triumphant return to Fresno with the World Champions Trophy in February 2011 as a special guest speaker for the Hot Stove Gala.
Where He Went From There: After making his Major League debut for the San Francisco Giants on June 26th, 2008, Sergio appeared in Fresno before being returned to the Major Leagues on August 16th. In his debut against the Cleveland Indians, Sergio entered the game in relief and struck out two batters in one inning pitched on the road. The following season, Sergio recorded his first Major League save on July 7th at AT&T Park in San Francisco against the Florida Marlins, striking out the final two batters to seal a 3-0 victory for the Giants.
Where He is Now: In 2010, Sergio mostly played the role of setup man for closer Brian Wilson. It was his biggest year as a Major Leaguer so far, as he recorded a 5-3 record with a 2.18 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. Sergio struggled in the National League Division Series, giving up three runs in 0.2 innings pitched, perhaps contributing to the “torture” of watching Giants baseball. However, Sergio was able to rebound in the National League Championship Series and World Series, where he tossed three scoreless innings, helping the Giants in their championship quest.
Career Highlights:
     In his short career, Sergio has a 13-6 record with a 2.63 ERA
     Sergio contributed to one of the most exciting home wins in Giants history when he setup Brian Wilson for the save against the Padres in the final regular season game to clinch the division. He sat down both batters that he faced, striking out one of them.
     In 2010, Sergio had a 1.47 ERA in eighth innings, solidifying his role as the setup man for the Giants.

The Social Network

By: Noah Frank

So yes, the
title of this post is obviously a play on the upcoming Academy Awards and the
favorite in the Best Picture category. But did you know that the Grizzlies have
been at the forefront of the social media push in Minor League Baseball? Thanks
to you, our great fans, we have become one of the leaders in followers, as it
were, and we’re continuing our push to lead the way in social media.

A few weeks
ago I was scanning through our social media sites and realized that the
Grizzlies Official Twitter Account was within a few dozen people of cracking
5,000 followers. As I browsed the rest of the Pacific Coast League teams’
accounts, I found that we were 

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leading the pack (albeit narrowly), but had the
best chance of cracking the milestone mark first. It was one of those
opportunities that I didn’t want to waste, or let slip by.

I converged
with our marketing department and we secured two tickets to our Hot Stove Gala
to give away to one of our followers. While that was a nice incentive for one
winner, I wanted the chance to reward all of our followers for the community
they have become. So, we worked with our tickets department to create an
awesome Opening Weekend Package full of special perks, unique to this offer.
Plus, we got a great price exclusively for our Twitter following.

We rolled
out a press release exclusively through Twitter, directing people back to our
website for the special ticket offer. The idea of using Twitter as the
exclusive platform for a press release was intriguing, as it was something that
we had never done before, and that I hadn’t heard of others doing either. Sure,
people often will include a link to a release that has been put out to the
public, but a Twitter exclusive?

We pushed
the message out on a Friday morning, attempting to reach the plateau before the
weekend. We crept along much of the day, inching closer and closer, then caught
fire and skyrocketed past the 5,000 mark. Thanks to some publicity, both local
and national, we pushed through and have possibly ignited a friendly social
media competition with our 

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neighbors to the north up in Reno. The Aces have the
second largest Twitter following in the league and are the only team ahead of
us in Facebook followers as of the writing of this post.

While we’re
thrilled to be the first to reach the 5K followers mark on Twitter, we still
have a push to make to hit the 15,000 fans mark on Facebook (and catch Reno).
So, we’ll be rolling out a number of Facebook-only offers in the weeks leading
up to Opening Day. If you aren’t already a “fan” on Facebook, make sure you
“like” us
and spread the word to all your friends.

This is your
chance to have a dialogue with us about how to make the Grizzlies the best
organization for Fresno. This is your team, after all. Tell us what kinds of
offers you want to have us put out there, what will help you better enjoy your
Grizzlies experience.

Oh, by the
way, there are just 41 days left until Opening Day. Get excited!

A Day In The Life Of… The Datacaster

By: Jim Nelson

Have you ever wondered how the game is produced over the
internet? How box scores and stats are entered into the record book, or how you
can watch the game in real-time on your computer if you’re not able to make it
to the ballpark? It’s a job done entirely by one person … In this case,
me! My name is Jim Nelson, and I’m
the datacaster/stringer for the Fresno Grizzlies. I am in my fifth year with the
Grizzlies, working alongside the rest of my colleagues up in the stadium press
box.

To land my job, I started by first taking a 10-page written
test issued by Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM). This test is based
on general baseball knowledge, and included many obscure questions that only a
true baseball fan would know the answer to. My testing then advanced to calling
games on paper; I was sent a series of plays as if scoring a live game, and it
was up to me to determine the calls. Finally, after a series of telephone
interviews with MLB in New York, I was offered a job with the Fresno Grizzlies.
At that time, I had no idea what I was in for, but I am glad I made the
decision to pursue it!

My gamedays start about an hour before each game when I go
up to the press box and grab the lineups for each team. I take my seat right
behind home plate, which I believe is the best seat in the house!  I load the lineups, umpires, and even the
weather into the software 

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provided by MLBAM. Once I’ve made sure that all of the information is loaded
correctly, I get to go enjoy dinner with all the other folks in the press box.

Finally, it’s time to play ball! I sit in my seat and as the
game begins, I start entering strings of codes into the computer. The coding is
much like a foreign language. I record every single movement, from pitch
location, balls, strikes, hits, walks, errors, and all player movement on the
base paths. For example, 54/sac/bg.1-2
translates into a sacrifice bunt hit to
the 3rd baseman, with the 2nd baseman covering 1st, and the runner advancing to
2nd base
. Complicated, yet simple! Every move made during the game must be
entered– even things like a coach visiting the mound– as my accounting is the
official statistic for the record book. So who watches me, to see that I don’t make
an error? During the game, I am connected via AIM with MLBAM colleagues in New
York City, who watch each and every major and minor league game in play. If I
make a mistake, they are able to catch it, and let me know. I then make the
correction as needed. It’s always a
good night when I make it through an entire game without hearing from NYC!

Finally, while you’re watching fireworks or other post-game
activities, or filing out of the stadium, I will be busy in the press box
reviewing my work; the stats will be compiled and the box score created. I get final
approval from New York that all of my information is good. At that point, the box
score is printed. I hand the information over to the Grizzlies media personnel,
who distribute it to both managers and all media, and at that point, it becomes
the game of record.

If you’re not able to make it out to the ballpark, I welcome
you to follow the game in real time through the link at
http://www.fresnogrizzlies.com.

Grizzlies Alumni Report: Brian Wilson


Who: Brian Wilson nicknamed “B-Weezy”, friend/neighbor of “The Machine“.

When He Was a Grizzly: Wilson pitched on the Grizzlies for three years, where he made 64 closing appearances.

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Fresno Highlights:
    ? Had a total of 80 strikeouts in 73.2 innings pitched.
    ? Logged an ERA of 2.10 in 2007 in 31 games.
    ? Tallied 18 total saves with the Grizzlies.
    ? Allowed only two home runs in 73.2 innings pitched over three seasons.
Where He Went From Here: In 2006, Wilson made his Major League debut with the Giants on April 23rd, when he threw 2.0 scoreless innings against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Where He is Now: 2010 marked Wilson’s fourth year in the majors. His fearless ball-throwing skills helped carry the Giants to their first World Series Championship since the franchise moved to San Francisco in ’58. Also, Wilson is the keeper of the 2010 World Series game-winning baseball, which he stores in a Halloween candy jar in his kitchen. He is the face of the “Fear the Beard” slogan and is known for his bright orange cleats, that he began sporting after the All-Star game in 2010.
Career Highlights:
    ? In 2008, Brian became one of three pitchers in Giants history to have 40 saves in a single season.
    ? Made the National League All-Star team for first time in 2008, then again in 2010.
    ? Between May 2nd and August 20th 2008, Wilson had 24 consecutive saves.
    ? Finished off the 2010 season with 93 strikeouts in 74.7 innings pitched and led the NL with 48 saves.
(Photo Credit: Don Davis)

10-For-10: Justin Renge

By: Noah Frank

Ed. Note: The 10-for-10 series is a chance for us at the Grizzlies to celebrate 10 years in Downtown Fresno by thanking 10 of our great fans. This is the first installment in the new series, which we will be running up to (and possibly through) Opening Day. If you know a deserving fan who has helped support Grizzlies baseball that you would like to nominate, simply email us at grizzliesmedia@fresnogrizzlies.com.

Sometime last year I had the idea that it might be fun to do some sort of “Fan of the Month” type feature for Yard Work. We have an awesome collection of loyal season ticket holders here in Fresno, but I wasn’t sure how to properly construct the series for this blog. Then suddenly, a couple weeks ago, opportunity literally came knocking at the door.

Pat Wallach, our Box Office Manager here at the Grizzlies, sent out a staff-wide email about an encounter he had just had with our newest season ticket holder. Pat had gotten a phone call from a mom who said her son, Justin, was interested in buying season tickets. He had arranged for them to come down to the ballpark and take a look at seats. All in all, it was a fairly normal interaction, so far as Pat could tell.

“I didn’t really think twice about it,” reflected Pat. “I didn’t ask any questions about how old he was or anything.”

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See, Justin is just 17, a senior at Fowler High School. He has been a Grizzlies fan since Chukchansi Park opened back in 2002, but really stepped up his fandom last year, when he attended somewhere between 50-60 of the Grizzlies’ 72 home games. He figured that this year he might as well just buy a full season ticket so he could also enjoy all the perks that come with being one of our season ticket holders. So Pat showed him around the ballpark.

“He took me out and showed me some of the seats and we talked about where I would possibly be,” Justin explained.

Where he would have been was in the Terrace View seats, down the right field line. While every seat is close to field at Chukchansi Park, most season ticket holders sit a little nearer to home plate. Of course Justin would have wanted to sit closer, but the Terrace View seats were all that he could afford.

See, this was not some birthday gift from his family. Justin was there to spend his own money, to find his own seat. As Pat found out that day, Justin had saved all of his money since the end of the 2010 season and added what he received for the holidays to come up with enough for his ticket package. Pat was blown away by Justin’s knowledge of the team and commitment to joining the season ticket holder ranks.

“He knows more about the Grizzlies and the Giants than me, I think” Pat said, laughing. “He’s one of the biggest Grizzlies fans I’ve met in my entire life.”

Looking at the seat that Justin could afford– but that would leave him sitting far away from the bulk of our season ticket holders– Pat made an executive decision.

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“I remember thinking ‘I don’t know if I should do this, or if I even have the power to do this, but I’m going to move you to Section 106 and get you on the Field Level.'”

That meant the chance to officially join the group of the most tried and true Grizzlies fans. It wasn’t a hard decision for Justin.

“He actually presented me with the opportunity,” Justin said with a smile. “And I accepted.”

It’s one of those moments that exists only in the world of sports, and even then doesn’t come around often enough.

“Something like this has never happened,” said Pat, who has been with the Grizzlies for four seasons. “It’s the coolest sale that I’ve ever made. It’s the best feeling, just knowing that there are people out there who love baseball that much.”

Looking forward to 2011, Justin says he’s most excited about the prospects that are coming through Fresno this year.

“Hopefully it will be as good as last year when we had Bumgarner and Posey. We’ll see what happens.”

Whatever happens,
Justin will be there to see every game, from the comfort of his own, personal
seat.

(Photos of Justin Renge by Pat Wallach)

Planes, Trophies and Automobiles

By: Noah
Frank

John Lennon
once said “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
It’s a good idea to keep that quotation handy when you live in a world that
constantly changes on the fly, as those of us who work in baseball certainly
do. One has to keep life in perspective in the wake of impending rainouts,
back-to-back extra inning games, or the sudden realization that one of the
guests of honor at your 50th anniversary charity dinner is snowed in
at an airport
in a state halfway across the country where it almost never
snows.

That’s the
position in which we found ourselves last Thursday, fighting the ever more firm
reality that we would be without Will Clark, The Thrill, the man who we had
worked for over a year to secure, for the Hot Stove Gala. It was about 10:30 in
the morning, or about seven 

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hours before the doors were to open to the public
when we first found out. To quote the poet Robert Burns, “The best laid plans
of mice and men, oft go awry”.

Thankfully,
through some expert maneuvering and generosity from those involved with our
parent club up north, we were privileged to host two very entertaining substitutes
in Giants pitcher and former Grizzly Sergio Romo as well as longtime Giants
player and current front office member Jim Davenport. Coupled with Matt
Williams
, Mark Gardner and Steve Decker, our guests were still treated to a
panel of world class players and personalities.

Of course,
there was also the Trophy. The real star of the show, the “big ticket” if you
will, may well have been the inanimate object sitting by itself on a black
tablecloth at the far end of the entry hall. Surrounded by more security than a
pop star, the golden circle of flags was a perfect centerpiece for this golden
anniversary event, and its presence lent a resplendent tone to the evening, one
that surely would not have existed without it.

Romo,
meanwhile, made one of his biggest relief appearances to date. Pulled off a
commercial he was shooting in San Francisco that morning, he was whisked into
the backseat of the World Champions Trophy Truck and rushed to Fresno with
enough time to be debriefed about the event and grab a Starbucks before the
doors opened. His laid back and 

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easy-going personality helped him steal the
show, as he fielded question after question about his beard and his
relationship with off-color closer Brian Wilson, all with far more polish than
his 27 years would suggest.

Joining Romo
as a last-minute replacement was the 13-year Major League veteran, Davenport. He drove down from the Bay Area
on almost no notice as well, bringing his son with him. The Siluria, Alabama
native kept the mood light and jovial, charming the crowd by recounting stories
and cracking jokes about Romo’s beard in his thick-as-taffy southern drawl.

Clark
certainly did his part, calling the airline from the tarmac in Dallas, trying
to switch his flight and find a way to Fresno. When he had exhausted every
possible option, he shot an apology video on his cell phone and emailed it to
us. He also agreed– when we finally got a hold of him again just before the
dinner began– to return to Fresno for a private reception for all of those who
missed him at Hot Stove. It was a classy thing for him to do, and we can’t wait
to bring him back to where he began his professional career later this summer.

Moreover,
Romo and Williams both stayed to fulfill every last autograph and photo
request. In our world, where we are too often bombarded with stories of the
arrogance of some professional athletes, it was a welcome and truly touching
sight to see each and every one of our fans go home happy, in the wake of what
could have been a disastrous day. Thanks again to all our guests and the Giants
for making this a Hot Stove to remember.

Photos by Don Davis: Sergio Romo (top) and Jim Davenport entertain a crowd of nearly 1,000 guests at last week’s Hot Stove Gala. Will Clark movie below.

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2011 Al Radka Award Winner Len Bourdet

By: Noah
Frank

As you may
know, our 50th Anniversary Hot Stove Gala takes place tomorrow night
at the Fresno Convention Center. The venue will be stuffed to the gills with
nearly 1,000 guests, enjoying the company of Giants legends Will Clark and Matt
Williams
and basking in the golden glow of the World Champions Trophy, which
will be on display.

While all of
that is wonderful, one of the most rewarding parts about the event is the
opportunity to honor a member of our community with the Al Radka Award. The
award is designed for a member of the Valley community who has made a
difference through the game of baseball. This year, we will be honoring Malcolm
“Len” Bourdet, a very deserving recipient.

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Bourdet was
a two-sport star in baseball and basketball at Fresno State before going off to
fight in the Pacific in World War II. When he returned, he played minor league
ball for several years in the Cubs organization, including stints in Stockton
and Visalia
. But he is best known for the days after his playing career, when
he decided to go into coaching.

A disciple
of the legendary Pete Beiden when he played at Fresno State, Bourdet won 722
games, 15 conference titles and four state championships over his 31-year
coaching tenure as the skipper for the Fresno City College Rams. When you
really think about them, those are some truly staggering numbers. That is an
average of more than 24 wins per season, and a conference championship every
other year.

In today’s
sports world they name buildings and fields after you or build statues of you for that
kind of dominant success. But Bourdet is as humble as could be, and was honored
when told about the award. You can learn more about Len as he talks to Hot Stove
Master of Ceremonies Jason Oliveira tonight on ABC 30 Action News at 11pm.

(Photo: Bourdet from his time at Fresno State)

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