Results tagged ‘ Chukchansi Park ’

On the Brink

By: Josh Jackson

There are many young kids in this country and other parts of the world who aspire to play professional baseball when they grow older. Unfortunately, for most of us, this fantasy is eventually smothered by the harsh realities that come with the different seasons of life. We realize that the road to becoming a professional athlete is too narrow for all dreamers to travel on. On the other hand, there are some kids who are just gifted, lucky, and put in a lot of time and hard work.  These kids eventually do get to play baseball professionally. We see them every summer at venues like Chukchansi Park in Downtown Fresno.

But the ultimate goal of every player performing in affiliated ball is to make it to The Show. Even out of all the players that are fortunate enough to have made it to a professional baseball team, a very minute portion will ever make it to the big leagues. So when 2011 Grizzlies Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchezmade their Major League debuts this season at such a young age, it was hard not to appreciate the rarity of the situation.

Hector Sanchez facing Sacramento on July 4 in Fresno

As most Grizzlies and Giants fans may know, Belt made his Major League debut on Opening Day this season. He struggled at the plate to start the year, which is very common for young hitters, and was optioned to Fresno on his 23rd birthday. Injuries to the Giants gave Sanchez his first opportunity to play in the Majors back on July 15th at the young age of 21. Most people don’t even dream of starting a career at that age and this young man started behind the plate for the defending World Series Champions. This year also marks Sanchez’ fifth year as a professional. Some simple math reveals that he was only 16 when he played his first professional baseball game.

Three-time All-star and Gold Glover Vernon Wells would know something about being on the brink of being a big time ball player at such a young age. Wells was a first-round selection by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997 when he was just 18 years old. At the age of 21, he went from playing Single-A ball to playing in the Majors in the span of one season, just like Sanchez. Wells described what it was like to be a teenager in the minor leagues.

“It was a great experience being around the older guys and guys that have played in the big leagues,” he explained. “You play around big league ballplayers everyday and it is hard to not focus on that.”

When asked what advice he would give to Hector Sanchez on the day of his Major League debut, Wells responded, “Just relax. Just stay confident. That’s the hardest part. It’s actually much easier to hit, you can see the ball easier in these (Major League) parks. Sometimes I would go rehab at these minor league stadiums and it was so difficult to see the ball.”

Brandon Belt facing the Tucson Padres on May 6 at Chukchansi Park

Perhaps confidence and the ability to relax at the plate was something Giants top prospect Brandon Belt lacked at the beginning of the season. Being sent back-and-forth between Fresno and San Francisco did not discourage Belt, as he kept a positive attitude and a healthy work ethic that was visibly apparent to even the casual observer. His focus paid off on July 19th, when he was recalled by San Francisco to face the rival Dodgers at home. Belt had no problem seeing the ball on this night, as he turned in a 2-for-4, 3 RBI performance, which included a solo shot to right field in the second inning, his first home run at AT&T Park. His contributions lifted the Giants to a much needed, 5-3 victory. Speaking with Belt after the game, you could see it felt good for him to get passed some of his early season struggles.

“The first time I was up (with the Giants) at the beginning of the year, confidence was definitely something I lacked,” Belt explained. “I put a lot of stress and pressure on myself and it definitely showed in my play. That’s one of the main things I wanted to work on when I was in Fresno. I was able to relax and find a place where I was comfortable physically and mentally and fortunately I was able to bring it back up here.”

Belt will likely finish the season with the San Francisco Giants, and it does not appear that he will be coming back our way to Fresno anytime soon. Sanchez is currently with San Jose until rosters expand in September. After talking with him in San Francisco, Sanchez expressed his excitement on finishing the year strong and getting more opportunities down the road.

“It is amazing being where I am and having a chance to play for a big league team,” Sanchez explained. “I am excited for the future and being able to play with those guys”.

Belt and Sanchez are already breathing rare air by making it to the Major League level at such a young age. Now the focus turns to doing what Vernon Wells has done, competing at the highest level for an extended period of time. The hard work and dedication to their craft will have to be pushed to the next level if they wish to have that kind of success down the road. Having witnessed their meteoric rise through the minor league system, it is hard to put a damper on their potential.

Photo Credit: Don Davis

Trade Deadline Gives Parker Fans a Scare

By: Josh Jackson

Early Monday morning, rumors had surfaced in the local Fresno media that a trade had been approved that would send Grizzlies mascot, Parker, to another team in the PCL. The trade deadline had already come and gone on July 31st at 4:00 p.m. ET, but a few media entities were speculating that a deal had been reached prior to the deadline.

Many were skeptical of these rumors at first. After all, Parker is known across Minor League Baseball as the hardest working bear in all of the Central Valley. It was hard for people to grasp the concept of the Grizzlies letting go of one of their most valuable assets. In fact, after initial trade rumors had been reported and word spread via Twitter, PCL opponents Tacoma and Sacramento publicly denied involvement in any mascot trading with the Fresno Grizzlies, adding to further skepticism amongst the public.

Photo Credit: Don Davis

The local Fresno media remained hot on the story, as the paparazzi were able to catch Parker at the Greyhound Bus Station Downtown Monday afternoon. He was seen purchasing a ticket to Reno, Nevada, which greatly intensified the trade rumors. Media sources tried to get a confirmation from the Reno Aces that a mascot trade agreement had been reached between the two organizations, however Aces executives remained silent throughout the process.

Fans filed into Chukchansi Park on Monday night fearing the worst. On-field MC Travis Sheridan introduced Parker to the fans as usual, and the furry celebrity rode in on his yellow ATV from the center field gate.  He waved to the fans as he made his way around the warning track. “Parker Protocol” is to stop behind home plate and interact with the fans and players for the duration of pregame. This time was different though, as Parker continued his way around the warning track and back out through center field, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and not the usual Grizzlies jersey, waving to his beloved fans along the way. Some could not believe it, but for the time being it seemed like Fresno had seen the last of their furry friend.

To the relief of Grizzlies fans and the Central Valley as a whole, it was announced after the second inning that Parker would be staying in Fresno. The rumors had stemmed from Parker’s attempts to ship Dereks Franks, his hot dog-slinging arch-nemesis mascot, to Reno. There has been a lot of tension between the two ever since their confrontation with each other on Mascot Wrestling Night back on July 23. Sources say that Parker has been secretly shopping Franks on the trade market for the past week or so. It wasn’t until just a couple days ago that Parker found a suitor for Franks. In return for their new hot dog mascot, Reno agreed to send Parker a new super hero outfit, a box of silly string and a marketing intern, a nice return for the bear.

Parker and Dereks Franks exchange heated words on Mascot Wrestling Night

The deal appeared to be done, however the trade was never finalized due to some clerical shortcomings on Parker’s behalf. All of the paperwork had been completed, but Parker failed to fax it off to the league in time for approval. It turns out that the 12-game homestand had fatigued Fresno’s favorite bear significantly, who has been in need of some power hibernation lately. Following Saturday night’s contest against Reno, Parker intended on getting some extra sleep to prepare for the final three games of the series. This plan backfired, as Parker slept straight through the trade deadline and did not get approval from the league in time.

When all was said and done, Parker figured he would have to deal with Dereks Franks for at least one more year. “Things will not always turn out the way you want to this time of year,” Parker explained through an interpreter. “Dereks Franks and I will continue to try to work through our personal vendettas against one another in order to put on a great show for our fans. We just want to move forward from here.” Time will only tell what the fallout will be from Parker’s antics. One thing that we can be sure of: it will be highly entertaining.

Junior Grizzlies Display Talents at Chukchansi Park

By: Josh Jackson

July 10, 2011

FRESNO- Fresno starter Matt Yourkin may be one of the best starters on the Grizzlies staff this season. However Sunday afternoon marked a rough day for the veteran left-hander, as he was touched up by the Junior Grizzlies at Chukchansi Park.

A multitude of the Junior Grizzlies ballplayers got in on the action for a great session of day baseball in downtown Fresno. All afternoon, balls were being peppered all over the baseball diamond from every team. One of the more notable performances came from Arturo Camarillo of the black team. Camarillo hit a monster shot off of Yourkin that went deep into center field. Camarillo’s commitment to the Junior Grizzlies is undeniable. He is up early to take the bus to and from every practice and game. It is no surprise that he is considered one of the leaders of the organization.

Jarod Aust from the Navy team also displayed some good wood on the afternoon. Aust had one of the hardest hit balls of the game, as he roped a ball hard down the third base line, driving in a couple of runs in the process. Grizzlies pitcher Shane Loux had to duck out of the way to avoid getting hit by the well-struck ball. One could clearly see that Loux was impressed by Aust’s superb contact on the swing.

Junior Grizzlies pose with Grizzlies players following a well played contest

The Junior Grizzlies showed that they could do more than just hit, as certain players made some true web gems. Infielder Will Jones flashed leather all afternoon, putting on a defensive clinic for the black team. Jones, who is normally a catcher, played the infield all game and was not hesitant to swallow up some tough ground balls. He was definitely not afraid to get dirty, diving for grounders and line drives throughout the game.

Players from the red, green and blue teams had terrific days as well. Grizzlies players such as infielders Edgar Gonzalez and Brandon Belt were seen around the diamond giving Junior Grizzlies the credit they deserved, as they congratulated players from all the teams on their winning efforts. In the end, all of the Junior Grizzlies walked away from Chukchansi Park on Sunday afternoon victorious.

Panda Sighting in Fresno

By: Ellen Ward

Despite a good overall record, the defending World Champions have had a rough start to the 2011 season. They have lost key players to injuries, several of which have come through Fresno on rehab stints before returning to the Majors. After losing 30 pounds and finding his swing again in the off-season, the last place Pablo Sandoval thought he would end up would be on the disabled list. Just a month into the season, Sandoval fractured his right hand sliding into second base in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and later received surgery to repair the broken bone. Sandoval used his recovery time wisely; working out constantly, and even took ground balls with his left hand.

Signing with the Giants in 2003, Sandoval quickly rose through the various levels within the organization. The Giants promoted him straight to the Majors from Double-A Connecticut, bypassing Triple-A Fresno completely. The infielder made his Major League debut with the Giants in 2008 after splitting time between High-A San Jose and Double-A Connecticut. Sandoval became an instant fan favorite, batting .345 in 2008 and quickly emerged as a key hitter in the lineup. He received his quirky nickname, Kung Fu Panda, from pitcher Barry Zito, on September 19th, 2008, when he jumped over a tag from catcher Danny Ardoin, against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sandoval continued to dominate in 2009, batting .330 with 25 home runs, but fell off to just .268 with 13 home runs in 2010. In order to return to his earlier form, Sandoval took advantage of the 2010 off-season, losing 30 pounds over a three-month span. Before breaking his hand, Sandoval was batting .313, and led the team with five home runs in 24 games.

Now, Sandoval is finding his way back to San Francisco after being gone for five weeks. He is scheduled to start his rehab with San Jose before heading to Fresno for the first time in his major league career sometime this weekend. According to various Bay Area reporters the Giants would like him to play in at least five games before returning to San Francisco.

With this being Sandoval’s first time in Fresno, the community is already buzzing about the famous Kung Fu Panda’s debut at Chukchansi Park. To catch a glimpse of the Panda in action, be sure to get your tickets before they’re all gone. And don’t forget to pick up a fuzzy panda hat— you wouldn’t want to miss out on all the fun!

(Photo Credit: top: Lenny Ignelzi/AP; bottom: Associated Press)

Board At Work

For those of you who haven’t yet heard the good news, Chukchansi Park is in the midst of a nice little off-season makeover. The old video and matrix boards are being taken apart as you read this, and new video boards will be installed starting next week and be ready (hopefully!) by Opening Day. In addition to the regular board being a nice upgrade from the original model, the matrix board will also have video capability, meaning all kinds of fun new graphics to keep you Grizzlies fans entertained this season.scoreboard.jpg

As you can see, the construction crews are already going full-speed ahead. Thankfully, the weather has cleared up here in the Valley, so they’ve been able to operate under sunny skies for the last week. Word on the street is that there might even be a popular member of the Grizzlies staff (a very furry, orange staff member) who is pitching in to try to help us beat the clock as we count down to Opening Day on Friday, April 16th. After all, if you recall, he was the one who put us in this predicament in the first place.

In the meantime, there is plenty else going on in Grizzlies-land, as we’ve released our full promo schedule including fireworks night, giveaways, theme nights and celebrity guests. We also just announced our weekly promotions, chalked full with some awesome value nights.

Next up I’ll post my interview with Giants broadcaster Jon Miller from Spring Training as he breaks down what to expect on the field from your 2010 Grizzlies.

Hope Spring(s) Eternal

It’s another beautiful weekend in the Valley of the Sun. Former and future Grizzlies alike are mixed among veterans and the practice fields are full of players as the teams have yet to make their first round of cuts, when they will send players back to minor league camp.

The Giants hold their Spring Training at Scottsdale Stadium, a beautiful complex with a capacity close to that of Chukchansi Park. Of course, the stadium itself is not quite as big (no upper deck), but has a grass berm that stretches across most of the outfield.

Scottsdale Stadium.jpg

On Saturday the house was completely stuffed as the A’s came to town. I know this because the official attendance was exactly 12,000, the fire marshall-mandated capacity at the ballpark. It was a nice preview of this year’s Highway 99 rivalry, as rising prospects from both organizations were on hand. When you look at the depth of both of the organizations, it’s easy to see how Sacramento and Fresno could be battling all year for the PCL Pacific Southern Division crown.
Matt Cain, who won 10 games as a starter for the Grizzlies in 2005, was on the hill for San Francisco Saturday. He was shaky early and dug the Giants in a hole, but the offense pitched in and made things interesting. Buster Posey went 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI as the team closed the gap to 8-7, but they came up short.
Today’s game sees a Brewers squad very light on Major League talent facing off against Jonathan Sanchez. Former Grizzly Fred Lewis is in left and Nate Schierholtz is in right, in what’s shaping up to be a high-scoring affair with the wind gusting straight out to center field.
Bud Selig literally just stepped into the press box in the middle of me posting this article, and is now addressing the media, so I’m going to sign off for now. More to come in the next week from Arizona including interviews with Cain, Posey and legendary Giants broadcaster Jon Miller.
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