February has ended and March has arrived. While Grizzlies baseball starts on April 4th, Chukchansi Park will be hosting several events in the month leading up to baseball season.
On March 2nd, the Buchanan Babe Ruth baseball league will be hosting its baseball carnival on the Chukchansi Park field. Teams from the Buchanan league will play one-hour games between 9 am and 4 pm. Over 1,500 people are expected to be at Chukchansi Park throughout the day.
A week later on Saturday, March 9th, another baseball league will be hosting its annual carnival in Downtown Fresno. Central Babe Ruth baseball league will play a day full of games, including some games under the Chukchansi Park lights. Nearly 3,000 people will be at Chukchansi Park during the day and evening.
Sunday, March 24th is a big day for Chukchansi Park in more ways than one. After last year’s successful debut of Liga MX soccer at Chukchansi Park (an event that drew the largest crowd ever at the stadium), two new teams, the Monarcas de Morelia and Dorados de Sinaloa, will play an exhibition match.
Monarcas are based in Morelia, Michoacan and compete in the top league of Liga MX. Morelia won the 2010 SuperLiga after beating Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution in the finals.
Dorados are based in the city of Culiacan, Sinaloa. They compete in the Ascenso MX league, the second-tier of Mexican professional soccer. While they are a second division team, the Dorados feature Mexican soccer legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Blanco played for Mexico in three different World Cups and has also played for Club America of Liga MX.
March 24th kicks off with a Fresno Fuego intra-squad game at noon. There will also be a pre-game concert near the Tecate Cantina. Tickets for the Liga MX game can be purchased here.
Tony Torcato, who wore jersey number 34 in 2004, played for the Grizzlies between 2001 and 2005. The Giants’ 1st round pick from the 1998 Draft played in the San Francisco organization until 2005, including 43 games with the Giants between over four years.
Torcato is among the Grizzlies all-time leaders in several offensive categories. He is 2nd in hits (530) and games played (496), tied for 3rd in doubles (86), and 4th in RBIs (234).
Torcato’s final year in affiliated baseball was with the Chicago White Sox organization in 2006. His route to the White Sox system, though, was rather circuitous.
After the 2005 season, Torcato was released by the Giants. With no offers from American teams, the Woodland, Calif. native elected to play overseas.
Torcato joined a team in Grosseto, Italy, “playing three games a week on Fridays and Saturdays.”
“The competition was low,” Torcato said in an interview with Gary Traynham of the Democrat Sports Editor. “Some of the teams played like Valley High School, like the Bad News Bears. I said, ‘Man! Why am I doing this.'”
After joining the Chicago organization in May of 2006, Torcato went on to play in 78 games with Chicago’s Triple-A team, the Charlotte Knights, of the International League. He batted .249 with 2 home runs and 22 RBIs.
In 2008, Torcato played in the independent Golden Baseball League. He played for 2 teams: the Chico Outlaws and Long Beach Armada. It was his final year in pro baseball.
Travis Ishikawa, who wore jersey number 35 in his first season with the Grizzlies in 2008, helps us count down to Opening Day on April 4th.
The left-handed slugger out of Seattle, Wash. made quite a bit of noise in his first run with Fresno back in 2008. After starting the season with Double-A Connecticut, Ishikawa was transferred to the Grizzlies in mid-June. In 48 games with the Grizzlies, he batted .310 with 16 home runs and 46 RBIs. Add in 19 doubles and 3 triples, Ishikawa posted an envious .737 slugging percentage in 2008.
By mid-August, Ishikawa earned his first taste of the Major Leagues. He would go on to finish the 2008 season with San Francisco, batting .274 with 3 home runs and 15 RBIs.
The 29-year-old played for the Giants in 2009 and 2010 before finishing his career with the San Francisco organization (for the time being at least) with the Grizzlies in 2011.
Ishikawa is currently in big league Spring Training with the Baltimore Orioles as a non-roster invitee.
Right-handed pitcher Andrew Kown was with the Grizzlies for both the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Over 48 games (47 starts) in a Fresno uniform, Kown is 16-17 with a 5.00 ERA (142er, 252.2ip) and 169 strikeouts against 96 walks.
The 6’7″ hurler ranks in the top-10 for the Grizzlies’ all-time career totals in wins and games started.
In 2011, Kown tied with Matt Yourkin for the team lead in wins with 10. That same season, Kown was the lone player to represent the Grizzlies at the 2011 Triple-A All-Star Game.
Fun fact: Kown drove in a run in his first start of the 2012 season on April 8. The RBI, which contributed to a Grizzlies 4-1 victory over Tucson, was just Kown’s second career RBI. His only previous RBI was recorded back in 2008 when he played for the Columbus Clippers. Both of his 2 career RBIs have been with 2 outs.
Kown has signed with the Giants organization once again for the 2013 season. He is at San Francisco’s minor league spring training camp.
The Marietta, Georgia native was originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 5th round of the 2004 Draft out of Georgia Tech. He has also pitched for the Washington Nationals organization (2008-2010).
Pitcher Matt Palmer wore jersey number 38 in 2007 when he made 29 appearances (25 starts) for Fresno.
The right hander pitched for the Grizzlies between 2006 and 2008. He is 3rd on the Grizzlies’ all-time career strikeouts list (305) as well as 4th in all-time career wins (23).
The Memphis, Tenn. native pitched for the San Diego Padres organization in 2012, including 3 games with San Diego. He also made 20 starts for Tucson, going 6-9 with a 5.66 ERA. One of those losses was against Fresno on July 13th when he allowed 6 runs on 6 hits over 4 innings.
Palmer is currently in big league Spring Training with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a non-roster invite.
For what it’s worth, Palmer has only pitched for California-based Major League organizations: Giants, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, San Diego, and now Los Angeles Dodgers. California dreamin’.
Opening Day on April 4th is 39 days away, and we help count it down by featuring Roger Kieschnick, who wore jersey number 39 in 2012.
Kieschnick was one of the key pieces in the Grizzlies lineup last season that helped the team jump out to its best start in team history.
The Texas Tech product, though, had his 2012 season halted when he injured his left shoulder on May 29th at Sacramento. The injury occurred on the final play of the night — a walk-off home run to give the River Cats the win.
Despite missing three months, Kieschnick led Fresno with 15 home runs. The left-handed slugger also added a batting line of .306/.376/.604 with 13 doubles, 4 triples, and 40 RBIs over 55 games.
Kieschnick returned for the final series of last season against Tacoma at Chukchansi Park, playing in all 4 games as the DH. He hit a solo homer on September 2nd.
The Grizzlies will take on the Tacoma Rainiers during their Opening Weekend series at Chukchansi Park from April 4-7.
Eli Whiteside, wearing jersey number 41 in 2012, helps us count down to Opening Day on April 4th.
Whiteside played for the Grizzlies in 2008, 2009, and 2012. The native of New Albany, Miss. batted .233 (109-for-468) with 25 doubles, 9 home runs, and 66 RBIs in a Grizzlies uniform over 143 games in his career.
The catcher was a member of the San Francisco Giants during the playoffs of their 2010 World Series run.
The Grizzlies’ 2013 Opening Day against the Tacoma Rainiers kicks off an 8-game homestand from April 4-11.
The 12 past Grizzlies combine for 453 games played in a Fresno uniform during their careers, with Edgar Gonzalez leading the pack with 137 games. The total number of games played does not include Hensely Meulens’ time with the Grizzlies as he was Fresno’s hitting coach in 2009.
Special tip of the hat to Jason Grilli. The right-handed pitcher is an O.G. (Original Grizzly). Grilli played for Fresno during the Grizzlies’ inaugural season in 1998. He also pitched for the Grizzlies in 1999.
The first slate of WBC games start on March 2. The Championship Round will be held at AT&T Park in San Francisco from March 17-19.
If you need more primer for the WBC, check out team previews written by friend of the Grizzlies/Big League Stew blog writer Mike Oz.
The complete list of Grizzlies in the WBC can be found below. Years with the Grizzlies are in parentheses:
- Clayton Tanner – Australia (2012)
- Santiago Casilla – Dominican Republic (2010-11)
- Jason Grilli – Italy (1998-99)
- Tyler LaTorre – Italy (2011-12)
- Horacio Ramirez – Mexico (2010)
- Sergio Romo – Mexico (2008-09)
- Edgar Gonzalez – Mexico (2011)
- Hensley Meulens – Netherlands manager (2009)
- Luis Figueroa – Puerto Rico (2007)
- Andres Torres – Puerto Rico (2009, 2011)
- Ryan Vogelsong – USA (2011-12)
- Pablo Sandoval – Venezuela (2011-12)
Gillaspie has spent most of the last 2 seasons with the Grizzlies, batting .289/.368/.447 with 25 home runs and 110 RBIs. Gillaspie led Fresno in walks with 66 in 2011.
The Wichita State product was selected 37th overall by the Giants in the 2008 Draft.
Soptic was drafted by the White Sox in the 3rd round of the 2011 Draft out of Johnson County (Kan.) Community College. The Leawood, Kansas native spent all of 2012 with Single-A Kannapolis, appearing in 27 games. He was 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA (26er, 43.1ip) and 36 strikeouts against 29 walks. He also had 16 wild pitches. Opponents batted .176 against Soptic last year.
The right-hander was rated as having the best fastball in the Chicago farm system by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season.