Where Champions Are Grown
When the final out was recorded on Sunday night in the San Francisco Giants’ World Series clinching win, baseball’s focal point was on two players: Buster Posey and Sergio Romo. Romo finished off the Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera with an unanticipated fastball while Posey received the season’s final pitch to erupt a night of celebrating.
Romo and Posey were two of the 17 players that played for the Fresno Grizzlies at one point in their careers on the Giants’ 25-man roster. The list of 17 is a mix of draft picks, free agents and MLB Rehabbers, but nevertheless, the stamp of the Grizzlies was prevalent on this World Series run.
Torture reigned in 2010. Every night for the Giants seemed like a tall mountain to climb during that season.
In 2012, it was a team-wide never-give-up attitude that carried them to the end. This is not to suggest the 2010 version was a just a group of individuals, but this season, it felt as if each player on the 25-man roster had a moment to shine.
Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Posey are the more well-known Grizzlies alums, but there are others with stints in Fresno during their careers. Each had a unique moment or moments that introduced them to fans of this band of characters.
Before Xavier Nady drove in three runs in his first game with the Giants on September 1st, he played in 25 games with the Grizzlies. Nady was signed as a minor league free agent after being released by the Washington Nationals. The Nationals, of course, fell in the first round of the playoffs.
Joaquin Arias recorded the final out in Matt Cain’s perfect game, nearly falling over in the process, but he also registered two RBIs in the Grizzlies first game of the 2012 season to help the team to a 3-0 win over Tucson. Arias was a member of the Texas Rangers during the 2010 season when Texas eventually lost to the Giants in the World Series, but Arias was traded to the New York Mets during the season. He had never played in the World Series prior to 2012 and spent most of his career in the minors.
George Kontos was traded at the last possible moment before the start of the 2012 season to the Giants organization from the New York Yankees. He started the season in Fresno, appearing in 23 games and fashioning a 1.71 ERA. Once Kontos earned the Major League promotion in June, he never looked back. In fact, he became a valuable asset for the Giants in the playoffs. Kontos previously pitched in the bigs with the Yankees in 2011, but he did not make their playoff roster. The Yankees eventually lost to the Detroit Tigers in the 2011 playoffs after New York won 101 regular season games.
Ryan Vogelsong, an epitome of hard-work and perseverance, made his first appearance for the Grizzlies during the purple-and-black, home-games-at-Beiden-Field era in 2001. After being the Grizzlies Opening Day starter in back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012, he stood on the largest stage and consistently delivered standout performances in 2012 postseason. The Giants originally drafted Vogelsong in 1998 out of Kutztown University. It took Vogelsong many miles traveled, 14 different professional baseball teams and 15 years since he was drafted to taste the nectar of a World Series title.
Santiago Casilla (played for the Grizzlies in 2010 and 2011), Guillermo Mota (2012), Barry Zito (2011), Hector Sanchez (2011-12), Brandon Belt (2010-11), Brandon Crawford (2011), Aubrey Huff (2012) and Pablo Sandoval (2011-12) complete the list of 17 Farm Grown stars on the Giants roster.
When the Giants won the 2010 World Series, 16 of the 25 players on the postseason roster at the time played in Fresno (14 came up through the system while another two appeared with the Grizzlies on MLB Rehab assignments).
Posey was one of only
two three positional players on the Giants’ World Series roster in 2012 that was also on the 2010 championship-winning team (Huff was a starter in 2010 but a bench player in 2012). Sandoval, though, was relegated to a bench role in 2010, but he totally redeemed himself in a monstrous way in 2012 with an MVP performance. It is only fitting the likely 2012 MVP from the regular season paired up with the 2012 World Series MVP to guide the Giants offense, banking off experience (positive and negative) from two years ago.
Two World Series titles in the last three years is quite an accomplishment. The Giants are now the first National League team to claim MLB’s championship in two out of three years since the Cincinnati Reds did so in 1975 and 1976.
The Giants deserve each title, but each crown should serve as a moment of pride for the Central San Joaquin Valley community as well. It is one of the few regions in the country that can say they were able to see the World Series champions of tomorrow, today.
Romo threw pitches for the Grizzlies before he jumped to the Majors. Posey was a backstop at Chukchansi Park before a catcher at AT&T Park. The list goes on and on, and we should all be happy to be a part of it all.
Fresno is where champions are grown.