March 2011

10-for-10: Marilyn Meadors

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.

When I started this series, I put out a call to you, the readers, to help tell the stories of 10 fans that have helped us celebrate 10 years together in Downtown Fresno. As I asked you all for submissions, I wasn’t sure of the response I would get. As it turned out, I was deluged by nominations, with one name standing out from the rest: Marilyn Meadors.

I must confess I had really only heard of Marilyn through fellow coworkers here at Chukchansi Park, so learning more about her was a revelation as to how big a fan of the Grizzlies she really is. Once from Dinuba, Marilyn and her husband Craig now live in Clovis, just 15 minutes from the ballpark. Why the relocation?

“The Grizzlies actually were one of the reasons we moved to this area,” she said.

Marilyn and Madison

Bumgarner smiles.

When you attend as many games as Marilyn and Craig do, it’s no surprise. Marilyn is as close to a team mom as we have here in Fresno. When people talk about Minor League Baseball being a family environment, they are referring to the relationships that fans like Marilyn have with both the players and her fellow fans.

“A friend of mine said ‘you wish that everyone of those players was your son’, and it’s true,” she admits with a smile.

If the players are her sons (or grandsons), then her fellow season ticket holders are her brothers and sisters in this Grizzlies baseball family. She cited a number of different die-hard fans that have become some of her closest friends over the last decade. More than that, though, she talked about how excited she is to just come to the ballpark every day and talk to the casual fans who come to Downtown Fresno each season.

“You just meet a lot of people that you have something major in common with,” she laughed. “If you can’t talk about anything else, you can definitely talk about baseball.”

Marilyn and Parker

When you have as many baseball memories as Marilyn does, it can be hard to pick a favorite. She listed a number, but a few stood out in particular.

“The more recent one, of course, is just being able to sit and chat with Buster Posey at the meet-and-greet,” she recalled, speaking of the annual preseason event. “I did get (Madison) Bumgarner to smile,” she laughed.

I asked her what she was looking forward to the most this season, and she cited the next wave of upcoming talent, highlighted by the possibility of seeing top prospect Brandon Belt here in Fresno.

“He’s one of my Facebook friends,” she says of Belt, something that I can’t even claim. “I grabbed him while he was still young.”

Speaking of being young, Marilyn had also read the first installment of our 10-for-10 series, in which we profiled our youngest season ticket holder, 17-year-old Justin Renge. I’ll leave you with her observation, which is a great thought as we sit on the brink of another baseball season.

“I’m 67, and the young man that you interviewed is 17. I’m thinking ‘that’s a 50-year span. Isn’t that cool?’ There’s 50 years difference and yet we still have the same passion for the game of baseball. I think that’s just so much fun.”

And that, as much as than anything, is what baseball is all about.

Pressed? Word.

By: Noah Frank

If things look a little different around Yard Work these days, it’s because we (along with the rest of the MLB blog world) have made the switch over to Word Press. While the new platform offers a lot of great new options for us, it is also exposing my rudimentary HTML skills for what they are. So forgive us if it takes a couple weeks to get all of our archives updated so they all look pretty. You know, we’ve got that whole Opening Day thing coming up, so we’re kinda busy.

In the meantime, we’ll have the next 10-for-10 for you tomorrow, and plenty of great stuff once the season starts. If you’re not already following us on Facebook, make sure to like us to have a chance to win great Prizes From Parker now through April 7th. That’s all for now…

Spring Training: Days 2-3

By: Noah Frank

The Giants took a trip out to Surprise yesterday and handed the Rangers the second loss in as many games between last year’s World Series participants this spring. San Francisco continues to look particularly sharp here in Arizona, compiling a Major League-best 14-5 overall mark to this point, even with today’s loss to Milwaukee.

Doing his part along the way has been 2010 Grizzlies reliever Steve Edlefsen, who has gone 1-0 with a save and has not allowed a hit, walking three and fanning five over 5.2 scoreless Spring Training innings. Before this afternoon’s matchup with the Brewers, I had a chance to sit down with “Eddy”, and we chatted for a bit about his tricky name, his eventful offseason and a quick look ahead at 2011.

Q: Have they been getting your name wrong in spring so far?

A: On the loudspeaker they’ve doing an ok job. I’ve gotten it butchered here and there, but it hasn’t been too bad.

Q: It seems like you’re hitting your stride early on. How has everything felt so far?

A: I’ve felt good, you know, I’m just trying to get my legs under me, get my arm slot figured out. So far it’s gone well, I just want to stay (in Major League camp) as long as I can, hopefully put some pressure on these guys at the end of Spring and we’ll see what happens.

Q: This was a big offseason for you– you got married and you were added to the 40-man roster.

A: It was an exciting offseason, but it was a quick offseason. I feel like it was just a couple of weeks ago that we were packing up our stuff in Fresno. It was great to be added the 40-man, it’s an honor, it’s something you strive for. It’s a start, it’s not exactly where I want to be, I want to be on the 25-man. But it’s a good point in my career and it was exciting to hear that, and obviously getting married was a blessing and a great time in our lives.

Q: You were an All-Star for the Grizzlies last year, but struggled with some injuries. Do you still feel like you have something to prove this season?

A: Yeah, I just want to build off (last year), is what it comes down to. In this game you have to prove yourself every day, so I always feel like I’ve got something to prove. But I’m excited with where I’m at, Spring Training’s gone well so far, so I just want to keep trying to throw well and keep trying to be consistent.

Spring Training: Day 1 Recap

By: Noah Frank

After a flight delay, a missed connection and a rental car line that looked more like the wait for an amusement park rollercoaster, I finally stumbled into Scottsdale Stadium unfashionably late. Of course, arriving in the bottom of the second inning of a Dodger game is pretty much par for the course, just not for the Giants.

The packed house of 12,081 (a new Scottsdale Stadium record, evidently) was fairly laid-back, coming to life only for home runs from Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, and a standing ovation as Brian Wilson entered the game to pitch a 1-2-3 sixth inning in relief. The Giants
ran out a starting nine very close to what they may well showcase against these
same Dodgers on Opening Day in a couple weeks:

scottsdale_berm.JPG

Torres CF
Sanchez 2B
Huff 1B
Posey C
Tejada SS
Burrell LF
Ross RF
DeRosa 3B
Ishikawa DH
Runzler LHP

Of course, there will be no DH, and Tim Lincecum will be toeing the rubber for the defending World Champs, but otherwise it looks pretty close.

By the seventh inning, however, that Opening Day lineup was all but departed from the field, leaving something that looks a lot like what Grizzlies fans will see at Chukchansi Park on April 7th. At that point, the Giants had Jackson Williams behind the plate, Brandon Belt at first, Emmanuel Burriss at second, Conor Gillaspie at third, Brandon Crawford at shortstop and Thomas Neal in left field. While that may be a projection into the future for Giants fans, it was very much a picture of the present for the Grizzlies.

Gillaspie made a nice play at the plate to gun down a runner trying to score from third on a ground ball, but later committed an error that opened the flood gates on reliever Javier Lopez, leading to a four-run inning for the Dodgers. Only one of the four runs was unearned, though, as the Dodgers turned a 6-3 deficit into a 7-6 advantage. But the Giants survived a double-play ball from Williams in the ninth and compiled a two-out, two-run rally to send the crowd home happy with an 8-7 win.

Hopefully I’ll get a closer look at our future Grizzlies today as the Giants take on Texas out in Surprise. I’ll also hopefully have some audio from Steve Decker (whoI ran into while checking in to the hotel) on his thoughts so far this spring and for the upcoming season.

(Photo: Scottsdale Stadium from behind the berm in right-center field)

Prospect Watch: Thomas Neal

Prospects have always been a hot topic during Spring Training and this year is no exception. Players like Brandon Belt, Zach Wheeler, Conor Gillaspie, and Darren Ford all ring a bell to any Giants lover. During this year’s Spring Training, much has been made about the Giants top prospect, Brandon Belt, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on outfielder Thomas Neal as well.
Neal has produced consistently strong Minor League numbers that have landed him in the top seven of Baseball America‘s Giants prospects list each of the last two years. Not only has he shown a good glove in the outfield, committing just 19 errors across his five-year minor league career, but he has also shown enough pop in his bat to be a potential big leaguer.

neal.JPG

In 2009, a then 21-year-old Neal put up break through numbers that shot him up the ranks of Giants prospects. He batted .337 (160-for-475) with 67 extra-base hits in 129 games with the San Jose Giants. He also belted 22 of those out of the park and polished off the season with 90 runs batted in. These outstanding numbers nabbed Neal the 2009 San Jose Giants MVP award.
He advanced to Double-A in 2010 with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, where he proceeded to post solid numbers yet again. He compiled a .291 batting average, also cleared the 40-double mark for the second straight year. His career minor league line of .296/.375/.475, has helped him rise steadily through the minor league ranks.
His overall performance in the minor league system eventually scored him a spot on the Giants 40-man roster in mid November. Neal is currently playing on Major League Spring Training with the Giants in Scottsdale, Arizona. He will more than likely end up in Fresno for the beginning of the season and has a possibility of making his Major League debut in San Francisco in 2011.
In addition to being a noted prospect, Neal has joined the Twitter trend that has exploded within the sports world recently. His username @TdaddyNeal is constantly being updated before and after (but hopefully not during) Spring Training games. Neal logs in daily to tweet about Spring Training, day-to-day life, random questions of the night and favorite quotes. He frequently interacts with fans through Twitter, which is always great for a technologically keyed-in Giants fan base.
His down-to-earth online persona has received positive attention, helping him attain a collection of over 2,200 followers, as of this article. Check into Yard Work in the near future to catch a full length interview with Thomas Neal, in the mean time feel free to start following @TdaddyNeal, as I do, for everyday updates from the prospect himself.
(Photo Credit: Real Life Studios)
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