By: Ellen Ward
In recent months, Shaela Warkentin has become a household name in Fresno, but not by choice. The Bullard High School sophomore was the victim of a severe car accident on March 18th, 2011. Sixteen year old, Shaela and her sister were returning home from a youth group function when a truck rear-ended the Mustang she was driving. The accident left Shaela in critical condition, which resulted in a two month-long hospital stint. She received several surgeries to correct the damage done to her face and skull, but unfortunately Shaela lost sight in both of her eyes.
Local businesses partnered with the community to help the Warkentin family with the unexpected medical bills. The Fresno Grizzlies caught wind of this opportunity and reached out to the family about a night dedicated to Shaela and her recovery.
“I was telling my wife earlier you come sometimes and see things about other people but you never think its going to be about you, in a way its cool, but in a way it is sad,” expressed, Shaela’s father, Ken Warkentin.
With support from the community and the hands of skilled doctors, Shaela defeated the odds and was released from the hospital on May 10th, 2011, just two months after the accident that threatened her life. She still faces a long road to recovery, but she continues to smile through it all.
“We’ve come to games here before, but this is the first one she can’t see,” said Ken Warkentin.
Shaela threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Monday, May 23rd, while her older sister Kylee sang the national anthem. Not only was the Warkentin family a part of the pre-game action, but a portion of the ticket sales went straight to Shaela’s account to alleviate medical expenses. The park sparkled with purple shirts that Shaela’s family and friends made to support her in the wake of the tragedy.
“It is an incredible honor that the park would do this for us”, said, Ken Warkentin, in response to the Grizzlies opening their arms to his family.
As Shaela took the field, the crowd began to shout words of encouragement to the young, now blind teen. She walked to the mound with her arm wrapped around her father’s, firmly clinching his wrist. She grasped the baseball with both hands, turning back at her father who had let go of her hand. Shaela threw the baseball to Fresno Grizzlies closer, Marc Kroon, and immediately the crowd erupted into cheers. The ball bounced right before home plate, which is a remarkable feat considering Shaela’s injuries.
“I feel so good, I was expecting a lot of this, so many people have talked to me, and said they are praying for me,” said Shaela after she threw out the first pitch.
The Fresno Grizzlies were honored to host the Warkentin family on Monday night. It was an emotional night at the park for players, coaches, staff and fans. After catching the first pitch, Grizzlies closer Marc Kroon said, “ that almost made me cry” to his teammates as he headed back to the dug out.
The organization will continue helping families in need, and reaching out to fans that have been so loyal to them through the years. Everyone at the Grizzlies wishes Shaela a speedy recovery and hopes to see her at more games in the future.
By: Josh Jackson
The 2011 season for the Fresno Grizzlies started with a complete turnover in the starting rotation from the 2010 season. With departures from pitchers like World Series Game 4 winner Madison Bumgarner and Grizzlies’ wins leader Eric Hacker, fans were not sure what to expect from the starting rotation this season. It was eventually decided that the ace for the Grizzlies would be journeyman Ryan Vogelsong.
Vogelsong turned in an impressive start for the Grizzlies on Opening Day against the Las Vegas 51’s. The 12-year veteran tossed 5.2 innings of three hit ball, giving up only one earned run, striking out nine batters, earning the win in the process. His next start against the Tacoma Rainiers on April 12th was almost an identical performance. Once again, Vogelsong went 5.2 innings, gave up only one earned run, fanned eight batters, and earned his second consecutive win. It would be his last appearance in a Grizzlies uniform before being called up to the San Francisco Giants on April 17th.
The North Carolina native was originally drafted by the Giants in the fifth round of the 1998 Major League Baseball Draft. Vogelsong eventually made his Major League debut with San Francisco on September 2, 2000, where he pitched a 1-2-3 inning of relief against the Chicago Cubs. He was not able to earn a spot in the rotation though, and in 2001, was assigned to the minor leagues where he made his debut with the Fresno Grizzlies. His first start in Fresno was on Opening Day against the Iowa Cubs, where he pitched 6.0 innings of one hit ball in a no decision. Vogelsong was traded later that year to the Houston Astros organization, and traded once again to the Pittsburgh Pirates at season’s end.
Vogelsong put together his longest Major League stint with the Pirates from the middle of the 2003 season through the middle of the 2006 season. During that stretch, Vogelsong compiled a lackluster 10-17 record with a 5.87 ERA. He was sent back down to AAA Indianapolis in 2006 and was released from the Pirates at the end of the season.
His next three seasons would be spent in the Japanese League, pitching for the Hanshin Tigers and Orix Buffaloes. It was not until last season when he made his return to the states. He made 7 starts (25 appearances) with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI), compiling a 2-5 record with a 4.91 ERA. Later in the season, Vogelsong would return to the PCL, pitching for the Salt Lake Bees (LAA), going 1-3 with a 4.66 ERA in 7 starts (8 appearances).
Considering the multitude of struggles and obstacles he has had to face throughout his career, Vogelsong is experiencing no such thing in 2011. During his time with the Giants this season, Vogelsong has been nothing short of dominant. One of his more notable starts was on April 14th at Chicago (NL), where he pitched six innings of shutout ball in what would turn out to be a complete game. The contest was called due to rain.
He also turned in a 6.1 inning, one hit performance against Colorado on May 8th in a winning effort. As of this article, the tall right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA with the Giants. Vogelsong has also not given up an earned run in 18.1 innings as of this article. He is, at least from a statistical standpoint, the best pitcher for the Giants so far this season on a star-studded pitching staff.
Vogelsong will look to continue his remarkable start to the season on May 26th against the Florida Marlins at AT&T Park. Make sure to keep an eye on this veteran as the season progresses. Perhaps he is the next Grizzlies alumn to do big things at the Major League level.
Photo Credit: Don Davis Photography
By: Josh Jackson
There are plenty of obvious factors contributing to the buzz surrounding the Fresno Grizzlies this season. Perhaps one can say that it all started last year. The 2010 campaign was one of the more successful seasons in the recent history of the franchise, and fan favorites Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner were major role players in the Giants’ championship quest. Madison Bumgarner World Champion Bobblehead night drew nearly 10,000 fans to the ballpark this weekend, and the upcoming Buster Posey ROY/World Champion Bobblehead night is sure to draw a huge crowd as well.
Grizzlies and Giants fans alike are now excited to see what is in store for the organization. One of the most talked about players would be top Giants prospect Brandon Belt, who is one of the focal points of the upcoming Showtime series, The Franchise, along with Grizzlies closer Marc Kroon.
However, there are a lot of things the Grizzlies are doing to bring our community together that you may not yet be aware of.
Friday, May 20th, marked the first of two “Pack the Park to Fight Hunger” nights benefiting the Poverello House, presented by CBS 47. Poverello House is a nonprofit organization here in Fresno that has been serving the hungry and homeless since 1973. The residents of the Central Valley showed tremendous support, as over 9,000 people came out to the game. Many fans that showed up brought non-perishable food items in order to help the needy in the Fresno community and received a discount on their ticket for that nights game.
In addition, CBS 47 recently put on a food drive of their own at the station’s studio and helped the Grizzlies spread the word in the community’s effort to fight hunger. Don’t worry if you missed the first night, but make sure you join us for the second and final “Pack the Park to Fight Hunger” night on Friday, July 8th.“Pack the Park to Fight Hunger” is a great cause, but it isn’t the only beneficial event that will be held at the ballpark this weekend. The Grizzlies are teaming up with the Red Cross on Sunday, May 22nd, to increase health awareness. During the game the Red Cross will have informational videos shown about CPR training, pool safety, babysitting precautions, and what to do in the wake of a natural disaster.
As many already know, the Grizzlies make it their responsibility to have a hand in the development of young children throughout the Central Valley. The Hopes and Dreams Foundation will also join the Grizzlies on May 22nd in this mutual effort. The Hopes and Dreams Film Project helps children suffering from life-threatening illnesses, and those of active military and first responders, to find inspiration and joy through the magic of filmmaking. The Hopes and Dreams Project shot their first film, “Build a Better Fastball”, right here at Chukchansi Park this past January. The film will premiere on Wednesday, June 1st at 6:30 pm at the Sierra Vista Mall.
To extend the fun-packed weekend here at Chukchansi Park, the students that met the Wild About Reading challenge were invited to redeem their two free tickets on Sunday, May 22nd. Over 8,000 tickets were given to students that met Parker’s challenge of reading ten books over a five-week period. Wild About Reading is just one of the ways the Grizzlies continue to help in the development of young children in the Central Valley.
Everyone in the Grizzlies family is more than excited about baseball this summer. But the Grizzlies and their fans are even more excited to use the sport as a platform to come together for the purpose of bettering our community. Make sure to keep an eye out for more beneficial events that will coincide with great baseball down at Chukchansi Park this summer.