Results tagged ‘ Buster Posey ’

28 Days Till Opening Day

28 Days Till Opening Day

Buster Posey, the Grizzlies catcher in 2009 and 2010, wore jersey number 28 with Fresno. And, how convenient, we are 28 days from Opening Day on April 4th at Chukchansi Park.

Sure, Gerald Dempsey Posey III is becoming the face of Major League Baseball. That is pretty easy when your list of accomplishments from a single season include:

  • NL MVP
  • NL All-Star (starting catcher nonetheless)
  • NL Silver Slugger
  • NL batting title
  • NL Comeback Player of the Year
  • NL Hank Aaron Award
  • Willie Mac Award
  • And…World Series champion (just a small feat)

Add those honors from 2012 to his 2010 NL Rookie of the Year award, 2010 World Series win, and 2008 Golden Spikes Award, and Posey has established quite a resume over just 2 years and 161 days of Major League service time (with a good chunk of that burned up by the devastating leg injury suffered in 2011).

While with the Grizzlies, though, Posey batted .337/.421/.535 with 21 doubles, 11 home runs, and 54 RBIs over 82 games. For his entire Minor League career, he batted .333/.427/.542 over 172 games. It’s pretty difficult to put up those numbers in the minors and not almost command the expectations of being the next big thing when you arrive in the Majors. So far, Posey has met and exceeded all hopes and dreams of the Giants and Giants fans alike.

Fun fact: Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner were the first all-rookie starting battery in a World Series game back in 2010 since Spec Shea and Yogi Berra started for the New York Yankees in the 1947 World Series. Both Posey and Bumgarner started the 2010 season as Fresno Grizzlies.

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.

Prospect Watch: Roger Kieschnick

Roger Kieschnick made his first professional season a memorable one. In 2009, the Rockwall, Texas native ranked third in all of Minor League Baseball with 110 RBI. He mashed a team-leading 37 doubles and 23 home runs, earning himself the California League Rookie of the Year Award. He was named a mid-season and post-season California League All-Star. And, to top it all off, he helped the San Jose Giants win the California League Championship.

Kieschnick didn’t come out of college with a typical resume, though. In his freshman year at Texas Tech, Kieschnick was named Freshman of the Year and a member of the First Team All-Big 12 by the conference’s coaches. Kieschnick followed up his freshman campaign by being named to the Second Team All-Big 12 in his sophomore and junior seasons.

College baseball players tend to flock to wood-bat leagues in the summer, getting more playing time and using the equipment utilized at the next level. Kieschnick, however, participated in international tournaments with the United States National Team. He won a gold medal at the World University Championships in 2006 and a silver medal in the Pan American Games in 2007.

The international experience provided Kieschnick not only with the familiarity of facing some of the best baseball players that are his peers, but also performing in front of the professional baseball gatekeepers: scouts.

The outfielder entered MLB’s First-Year Player Draft as a junior in 2008, feeling he had done plenty to impress the scouts with his bat, arm and range. The Giants selected him in the third round, but he did not appear in a pro game that summer.

He did not go into hibernation during his first professional offseason, however. Kieschnick played in the defunct Hawaii Winter Baseball league in 2008. He was a teammate of Buster Posey and Steve Edlefsen with the Waikiki BeachBoys. The trio helped the BeachBoys win their first (and the last) Hawaii Winter League baseball championship. Winning seemed to be following Kieschnick wherever he went.

The international experience, the winter league stint and his stellar season as a first-time professional provided Kieschnick with plenty of momentum entering 2010 – his first at the Double-A level.

By July of that season, Kieschnick was forced to the disabled list with back inflammation. His second pro season was cut short to 60 games, and he hit just four home runs in 223 at-bats – a distant number relative to his 23 in 517 at-bats in 2009.

The 2011 season became even more important for Kieschnick than it already was, and he did not disappoint. Kieschnick returned to Richmond, where he was named an Eastern League mid-Season All-Star and hit 22 doubles, five triples and 16 home runs in 126 games. He did not quite match his 2009 offensive output, but the Eastern League is known to be more of a pitcher’s league, especially compared to the high altitudes and windy locations of the California League.

The Giants rewarded Kieschnick with a 40-man roster spot in November of 2011, providing him with a secure mindset going into 2012. With the 40-man spot comes an invitation to Major League Spring Training, which is his second time taking part in big league camp.

Kieschnick seems to be an organizational favorite. All signs point to him appearing at the Triple-A level in 2012, possibly as soon as Opening Day. With the types of numbers put on display in the Pacific Coast League, Kieschnick may provide plenty of power for the Grizzlies.

A Walk In The Park

By: Noah Frank

When you are fortunate enough to work in baseball, you can, from time to time, forget the advantages your job affords you. In the offseason, when there are no games being played, you work a fairly standard 9-5 day, joining the rest of the population on the morning and evening commutes. But if you are lucky enough to have your offices built into the ballpark, and built into as beautiful a ballpark as we have here in Downtown Fresno, there is a constant reminder, right outside the window.

This week, that which all Grizzlies fans already know about our baseball home was revealed to a nationwide audience. Baseball America, the preeminent publication in our sport, chose Chukchansi Park to grace the cover of its 2012 Great Parks Calendar, which will hang in offices and homes from Spokane to Jupiter, from Portland (not Oregon anymore, just Maine) to Orem. It is a special honor for a city like Fresno, one that is not always associated with aesthetic beauty by those who do not live here.

In order to get a feel for the weight of such an honor, I caught up with a couple of people who know Downtown Fresno as well as anyone. Craig Scharton was born and raised in Fresno, and has moved his life Downtown, first living in the Security Bank building before purchasing his current house. This is only fitting, as he spends his days in the city offices as the Director of Downtown and Community Revitalization. There are few people in our town more committed to the success of Downtown than Scharton, who currently has a 20-game package for The CRU Club, and whose family has owned some form of ticket plan since the team’s move to its Downtown home in 2002.

A shot of Chukchansi Park from the Fresno sky. (Fresno Grizzlies)

“It’s obviously an incredible facility,” said Scharton of the ballpark. “And if we forget, we’re always reminded when we take visitors around how beautiful it is.”

Sometimes it takes an outsider’s view to make us aware again of what a great facility we have here. Another one of Downtown’s biggest champions, Travis Sheridan, relayed such a perspective.

“I’ve had visitors in all last year, coming anywhere from St. Louis to Australia,” he recalled. “They have all been so impressed with the ballpark. That’s when you know without a shadow of a doubt that this is a top notch ballpark.”

Scharton also recalled his experiences hearing from those who live outside of Fresno about how Chukchansi Park compares in the national landscape.

“We consistently hear from players and visitors that it’s the nicest ballpark in Triple-A” Scharton commented. That’s saying a lot, considering that six other parks have been built since 2000 in the Pacific Coast League alone.

The ballpark has also become the focal point of the Downtown entertainment experience. Sheridan was living in the Tower District when he first attended a game, back in 2004. Despite being a big baseball fan, he did not begin attending regularly until he became more involved in the future of Downtown four years ago as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Central Valley Business Incubator.

“For me, it was a two-pronged approach,” Sheridan explained. “The more I got involved, the more I started patronizing the Downtown area, and the ballpark is the crown jewel of Downtown. As a baseball fan, I realized I was missing out.”

Sheridan (left) with Billy Crystal in the tunnel behind the Grizzlies dugout. (Don Davis)

Sheridan moved Downtown a year ago and took a much bigger leap in his connection to the Grizzlies this season, when he became the on-field host for 67 of the team’s 72 home games.

“Nothing beats an afternoon at the ballpark,” said Sheridan, who would certainly know. “Walking from my place (at Broadway Lofts) to the ballpark, it’s a great way to experience Downtown. It makes for a great overall urban experience.”

Adding to that experience, at least over the last couple of seasons, was the chance to see past or future World Champions playing right here in Fresno.

“One of the things I thought was great last year was carrying the momentum forward from the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series,” said Sheridan. “We don’t have that with Fresno State Football. There’s not a lot of people who graduate that program who we’re following in the pros.”

Of course, college football lacks the fluid feeder system that the Grizzlies enjoy, thanks to the club’s strong affiliation with the Giants. After all, more than half of the 2010 World Series roster came up through Fresno at one point or another, intrinsically tying Grizzlies fans to last year’s world title. Scharton agreed with the importance of that connection, citing a recent example.

“We were with a whole group in LA last night talking about Downtown (Fresno),” he recalled. “We listed off the players that we’ve all been fortunate enough to watch up close and personal, like Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, and even Pablo Sandoval, who hit that home run here last year (on a Major League rehab assignment).”

In good times and bad for the baseball on the field, though, the ballpark remains. As it goes into its 11th year, Chukchansi Park looks as good as ever, as evidenced by its selection for the Great Parks Calendar cover.

The photo used by Baseball America for the cover of the 2012 calendar. (Don Davis)

“We know that we have a great stadium, and we hope that this recognition lets a lot of other people see what a great facility we have too,” said Sharton. “We hope they come and check it out.”

The people Scharton is referring to aren’t limited to just Fresnans, though. There are Giants fans all over the state, mostly north of the Central Valley, who travel great distances to see those in the farm system play.

“Just like people go to Spring Training, they should come down a couple times a year to see the upcoming prospects,” said Scharton. “It’s much easier and much cheaper to come down here than to go Scottsdale.”

Scottsdale Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Giants, is somewhat similar to Chukchansi Park. It holds roughly 12,000 people and was wholly renovated just a couple of years after Chukchansi Park was built. Both provide an opportunity for Giants fans to get out of San Francisco and watch the up-and-comers in the organization before they hit the Major League level. Sheridan agreed, for the most part, that Fresno could pull the same type of fan that makes the trek to Arizona each spring.

“Spring Training will always be a destination, but you can definitely carry that momentum,” Sheridan suggested. “Once people that have been identified in Spring Training as prospects, you can follow those folks in Fresno, throughout the year. To be able to see the prospects in Scottsdale and know you’ll be able to catch them any weekend in Fresno is a good selling point.”

It certainly won’t hurt to have some national recognition from the likes of Baseball America, either.

Prospect Watch: Gary Brown

By: Noah Frank

Oh, the offseason. The lack of daily baseball at Chukchansi Park leaves those of us who work here itching to get a jump on next year. And so, as we did last offseason, we will begin looking at the players making their way through the farm system who seem likely to spend at least part of the 2012 season here in the Central Valley. There will be names you most likely recognize, as well as those you probably do not. We’ll start this year’s crop with one that most Grizzlies and Giants fans know by now: Gary Brown.

Even if he begins the season at Double-A Richmond, which seems likely, given the logjam in center field created by the likes of Justin Christian, Darren Ford, Tyler Graham, the newly-signed Gregor Blanco and possibly Andres Torres, Brown will be a name often on the tips of Grizzlies fans’ tongues next season. That expectation simply comes with the territory when you are a first-round draft pick, as Brown was in 2010. Just ask Madison Bumgarner (’07) and Buster Posey (’08), or the recently departed Zach Wheeler (’09), who now faces the additional pressure with the Mets of being the top prospect traded for a star in Carlos Beltran.

Brown's season continued with the Scottsdale Scorpions this fall. (Chris Lockard/Scout.com)

With Beltran himself quite possibly heading elsewhere this offseason, that will put pressure on Brown to live up to large expectations, and will no doubt lead to fans calling for his promotion to the Majors sooner rather than later.

Brown has certainly done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm surrounding him, but the Giants were careful with the Cal State Fullerton product in his first season. After assigning him straight to High-A San Jose in 2011, Brown was given the entire season to prove what he could accomplish in the California League. All he did was post a line of .336/.407/.519, rapping out 61 extra-base hits, stealing 53 bases, and scoring a mind-numbing 115 runs in just 131 games for the minor Giants.

As we always do at Yard Work, we sought out the expertise of someone who has seen what Brown can do close-up. We spoke briefly about Brown a couple weeks prior with former Grizzlies hitting coach Ken Joyce, who served in the same role for Brown’s Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League, whose regular season ends today. But we went into greater depth with Joe Ritzo, the radio voice of the San Jose Giants, to learn more about what to expect out of the young centerfielder as he moves through the system. Ritzo pulls no punches when describing the role Brown played for San Jose, picked as the High-A Team of the Year, last season.

“He was our MVP,” says Ritzo, and it’s easy to see why. “Everyone knows about his speed and his defensive abilities, which were evident on a daily basis, but he had power too.”

Indeed, Brown swatted 14 home runs on the season. He also absolutely wore out left-handed pitching, batting .459 with a .685 slugging percentage (!) against southpaws last year. Not bad for a leadoff hitter.

Ritzo also compares Brown’s speed to the likes of Grizzlies single-season and franchise stolen base leader Graham, as well as Ford. Those two have been considered the fastest prospects in the system over the last few seasons, so the bar has been set high in the speed department before Brown ever sets his fleet feet in Fresno. But how does he compare to recent top draft picks at other positions?

Brown, like Brett Pill, is a Cal State Fullerton product. (mattbrownphoto.com)

“I’ve been here five or six years and there’s nobody quite like him and how he plays the game,” says Ritzo, which is high praise considering the top prospects that have roamed the diamond at Municipal Stadium the last few years. When I ask Ritzo to compare Brown to the likes of Posey and Bumgarner, he provides some interesting perspective.

“I don’t think his personality was really like any of those players,” he posits. “But what you see is that desire, working so hard before games, the competitive edge that you might see in Buster and Madison that separates them from others. The mental ability that those guys had, Gary has it as well.”

Brown, as mentioned earlier, had the advantage of coming through a high-caliber college baseball program at Cal State Fullerton, the same school that produced Brett Pill. Fresno fans have seen that the experience and maturity gained from those years has paid dividends for Pill, and they seem to be doing the same for Brown, according to Ritzo.

“There’s something extra when you watch him play that you just feel confident that he’s going to have a long and successful Major League career,” says Ritzo. “You can’t predict that kind of Major League success with much certainty very often with guys at the Single-A level.”

The only tick on Brown’s stellar 2011 performance can be seen with a deeper look into his month-by-month numbers. He batted .333 (including a .385 mark in August and a .397 clip in May) or better in every month of the season except one— a glaring .202 performance in June. In cases like these, it’s important to look for answers beyond the box scores, which is where someone like Ritzo comes in handy to provide context for such a slump.

Brown's speed in the outfield, and on the base paths, sets him apart. (Tony Medina)

“We made a lot of roster moves right about that time (early June), including sending Hector Sanchez to Fresno, and Gary was arguably playing better than any of those guys,” explains Ritzo. “He was maybe anticipating that call-up, and when he didn’t get the call it was a little disappointing, so he hit a bit of a lull. It was expressed to him that the organization wants him to stay in San Jose the whole year.”

While the San Francisco brass may have taken the conservative route with Brown in 2011, Ritzo does not expect them to necessarily continue to do moving forward.

“You get the sense that they won’t go that same route this year, especially if he’s starting the season in Richmond,” Ritzo says. “I would think if he starts hot would make it to Fresno before too long. If he has anything close to the kind of year that he had in San Jose, he’ll move quickly through the system.”

Here’s to hoping Fresno fans get a glimpse of what Brown can do sooner rather than later.

Catching Up On Hector Sanchez

By: Ellen Ward

Ever since Buster Posey’s season ending injury, the San Francisco Giants have had a tough time fully replacing their every day catcher. A couple weeks after Posey went down, catcher Hector Sanchez was promoted from High-A San Jose all the way to Triple-A Fresno. This sudden promotion sparked many questions and speculation about whether or not the Giants were grooming this young catcher to perform on a bigger stage.

With a pitching rotation that the World Champion lean on, it is only fitting that a top-notch catcher should be calling the pitches and blocking the plate. Posey was the Giants top prospect in 2010, and he found his way to San Francisco on May 28th of that year and became the compliment to the pitching staff. Posey spent the first few weeks at first base while the Giants evaluated their options. In the end they traded veteran catcher, Bengie Molina to the Texas Rangers and Posey became the Giants starting catcher and prized possession.

Buster Posey catching for the Fresno Grizzlies in April of 2010

A year ago, the Giants fan base wouldn’t dare think that a number of players would be doomed to the disabled list, but that is exactly where half of the World Series roster ended up by mid-May. The most devastating injury by far was Buster Posey’s shoulder-to-shoulder collision. He suffered season-ending injuries after Florida Marlins’ outfielder, Scott Cousins barreled into home plate in an extra innings game on May 25th at AT&T Park.

The Giants took action quickly, calling up Chris Stewart from Fresno, and moving backup catcher Eli Whiteside into the starting role. Both catchers are familiar with the pitching staff, but neither has come close to filling the vacant role Posey has left. It is rumored that the Giants are looking for other options to fill the position, and the recent promotion of Hector Sanchez from High-A San Jose to Fresno has provoked quite a buzz.

 This is a huge step for him,” manager Steve Decker comments on the arrival of Sanchez. “We need to make this kid a complete guy.”

There is a whirlwind of speculation about this young catcher but no one seems to know much about him. Sanchez is a 21 year-old from Maracay, Venezuela. He signed with the Giants at the green age of 16 in 2007, and played in the Dominican Summer League for two years.

In his second year of professional baseball, he hit .348, with 63 RBI and went 72-for-207. The next year, Sanchez began playing in the Arizona Rookie League, still catching and still producing runs. He hit a solid .299, and hit safely 35 times in 33 games. In 2010, he played at Low-A Augusta, where he batted .274, went yard five times, and had 31 RBI.

The Giants obviously saw potentional in Sanchez because he was a non-roster invitee for Spring Training in 2011. He spent a majority of camp with the defending World Champions, before being assigned to High-A San Jose.

“He got a lot of playing time because Whiteside got hurt in Spring Training”, points out Decker when asked how familiar Sanchez is with catching the Giants starting rotation.

Sanchez playing for the San Jose Giants. (Tony Medina)

In the Cal League, Sanchez tore it up in his first 43 games, batting .301, notching 19 multi-hit games, and hitting eight homers. Even more impressive is that he continued to be a RBI machine, notching 46 RBI in just 43 games. All of this work at the plate was done at the same time he was behind the plate guiding the Giants’ young arms, including top prospect Zach Wheeler. When Sanchez batted clean up for San Jose, he hit .319, and hit six of his eight home runs in the four slot. Sound familiar? Posey was the Giants permanent clean up hitter, and rotating players since his injury have filled that slot.

Sanchez was promoted from San Jose on June 9th, and played in his first Triple-A game on June 10th. He went 1-for-3 with a walk, and a RBI in his first game. He caught for veteran Shane Loux who gave up one earned run and fanned three batters in six innings of work. Sanchez’ has reached base safely in seven of his first nine games. He notched his first multi-hit game just six days into his Triple-A career, going 2-for-4, with a double and single, while plating two runs. He accomplished this at the same time as he was behind the plate calling a game for Cy-Young Award winner, Barry Zito in his third rehab start. Sanchez was the starting catcher in every single rehab start that Zito has pitched in, both games with San Jose and two more in Fresno.

“Sanchez called a great game and made it easy for me”, expressed starting pitcher, Andrew Kown after he threw six innings of no-hit ball to beat the Sacramento River Cats on June 19th.

On the surface Sanchez is a RBI machine based off his offensive numbers alone, and he has the advantage of being a switch hitter at the plate. The real question is, can he catch a starting rotation that carried the Giants to the World Series?

“He is in a position to be called up,” says Decker when asked if he sees Sanchez making his major league debut this season. “They always say you’re one foul tip away from the big leagues.”

Decker, a former catcher who spent most of his career with Giants organization, coached Posey at the Triple-A level, and will continue to shape Sanchez until San Francisco calls upon him.

The Giants put trust in Posey at a young age, but it remains to be seen if they will do the same with the 21-year-old Sanchez. It might be too early to tell, but according to Bay Area reporters he is on the right track. If he keeps producing at and behind the plate, he may find himself in the Bay Area sooner than later.

More Than Just A Game

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.

Sunday's game featuring Wild About Reading and the Red Cross draws large crowdTo 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.


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.

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)

Kindling The Hot Stove

By: Cody Turner

For many baseball fans, the excitement of the baseball
season doesn’t end after the World Series; it begins again. Following the
anticipation of the postseason awards, fans eagerly await the fate of some of
the key players from their organization, as well as what newcomers might become
significant contributors next spring. 

At the minor league level, while many spectators suspect a
vacant ghost town for a stadium, front office staffs across the country have
begun the diligent preparation for the six-month marathon of a season that lies
ahead. Similarly to fans, many members of the Minor League Baseball family
enthusiastically await offseason transactions, and how those moves affect which
exciting young talents they’ll get to feature come Opening Day.

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The most examined teams during the winter are often those
coming off postseason runs. The expectations of a defending champ are particularly
high, and the value of available top performers from such an organization is
increased. It’s always interesting to see how the chemistry of a championship
caliber team may be altered, especially a clubhouse that meshed as well as the
2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.

In their first month since their World Series victory, a lot
has happened in the world of baseball. The activities thus far have had an
affect on multiple levels. What most don’t realize is how the re-signing of a
free agent, or loss of another, can change not just the outlook for a league or
a division, but also an entire organization from the top down.  While the elite of baseball’s top
prospects participated in the Arizona Fall League and the Giants focused on
some of their higher priority free agents in November, the fortune of the
Fresno Grizzlies’ 2011 Opening Day roster awaits.

Each time the Scottsdale Scorpions took the field in
Arizona, and every negotiation made in San Francisco shifted which developing
players Fresno fans were likely to see come April. With the young talents of
Brandon Belt, Charlie Culberson, and Conor Gillaspie making their cases for a
shot at the next level with an exceptional display of development in the AFL,
the eventual home of Giants free agents will play a crucial part where these
prospects land.  

By the end of Belt’s steady rise through the system in 2010–
culminating in the Scorpions’ AFL Championship– talks of the lefty starting the
upcoming season in San Francisco
began to surface. The small glimpse of the heaving-hitting
first baseman in Downtown Fresno at the tail end of last season left fans eager
to see the rising star lead the Grizzlies into 2011. Little did we know that
despite a championship lineup in San Francisco, Belt might end up with the
Giants without stepping foot in Chukchansi Park again.

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The immediate future of the Giants’ fifth-round selection of
the 2009 First-Year Player Draft was highly dependent on whether San Francisco
would sign Free Agent first baseman Aubrey Huff. Even after the news of the deal
that would keep Huff in orange and black
for two more seasons, the possibility
of Belt being a Giant this spring was not necessarily diminished.

Huff’s experience in the outfield, his willingness to do
whatever it takes
to help the team win, and his desire to be an everyday player
didn’t count out the possibility of Brandon Belt starting the 2011 season in a
Giants uniform. The Huff signing inched Belt closer to an assignment to Fresno,
but it wasn’t until San Francisco’s latest signing of Pat Burrell that made Belt’s
immediate future in a Grizzlies uniform seem more probable than that in a Giants
one. Nevertheless, the winter has just begun. How the next four months play out
will determine where we see Belt come Opening Day.

Similarly to the starting first base job, the rest of the
Giants infield is in question for the spring as well. The immediate decision-making
rested on the free agent status of World Series hero Juan Uribe. With the
sure-handed infielder headed to Southern California after signing with the
division-rival Dodgers
(and the Giants’ concern with the fitness of Pablo
Sandoval
), the opportunity for a young upstart from the minor league system
making an impact appeared as conceivable as ever.

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Whether the Giants looked to a more established player like
Emmanuel Burriss or Ryan Rohlinger to step up, or the fresher faces of a
Gillaspie, Culberson or a lesser-known Brandon Crawford to emerge, infield
opportunities were seemingly wide open. However, shortly after Uribe’s
departure, the Giants acquired veteran shortstop Miguel Tejada, who helped
boost San Diego in the divisional race last year.

While the return of Freddy Sanchez and Mark DeRosa to the
Giants infield, along with the attainment of Tejada and re-signing of backup
infielder Mike Fontenot will help fill some vacancies with some veteran
assurance, there are still some questions to be answered this winter. With the uncertainty of Sandoval and the increased progress and
productivity of Culberson and Gillaspie, each offseason move dramatically
impacts what baseball fans in the Central Valley can expect to see in Fresno.

The outlook for Triple-A baseball in Fresno seems bright
with the likelihood of some impressive young talent making their way though at
some point in 2011. As always though, the length at which they stay may vary.
With the recent immediate success of Rookie of the Year Buster Posey and lefty
hurler Madison Bumgarner, the urgency to see a Brandon Belt as a Giant sooner
rather than later will be astronomical.

(Ryan Rohlinger and Madison Bumgarner Photos: Don Davis; Aubrey Huff Photo: AP)

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