Results tagged ‘ Mark Gardner ’

Baseball Season Is Ready To Get Underway In Fresno

The 52nd Anniversary Hot Stove Gala may have faced a last-minute change, but the evening itself went off without a hitch.

The Hot Stove Gala benefits the Fresno Grizzlies Community Fund (GCF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that spearheads efforts to assist, reward, and support worthwhile causes throughout the Central San Joaquin Valley.

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In addition to the dinner, the event includes raffle prizes and a silent auction to help raise money for the GCF. Through just the raffle and silent auction, over $7,000 was raised.

The money raised helps the GCF’s many community programs, such as Wild About Reading, Junior Grizzlies, and Farm Grown. The support for the GCF by fans each year helps it impact lives for the better all over the Central Valley.

As with previous Hot Stove Galas, one of the highlights of the night is the Q & A session with the guest speakers. The 52nd Anniversary Hot Stove Gala featured San Francisco Giants bullpen coach Mark Gardner, Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano, Detroit Tigers pitcher Doug Fister, and Giants pitcher George Kontos.

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Each of the guest speakers had a tie to the Fresno area. Gardner was raised in Fresno, attending Clovis High School, Fresno City College, and Fresno State before ascending to a 13-year career in the Majors. Fister is also a local product as the Merced native attended Merced Junior College and Fresno State.

Mariano and Kontos, meanwhile, were with the Grizzlies in 2012. Mariano guided the team to a 74-70 record – the franchise’s only fifth winning season in its 15-year history. Kontos spent the first two months of the season with the Grizzlies before his promotion to the Giants, where he became a strong asset in the World Series-winning bullpen.

The guest speakers took part in nearly an hour-long Q & A session, which was hosted by the evening’s master of ceremonies Paul Loeffler. Plenty of great stories were shared by the four guest speakers, including Mariano’s expectations for the 2013 Grizzlies, Fister’s over-the-top focus when he is on the mound, and Kontos’ thoughts on how he went from a late trade acquisition prior to Opening Day to becoming a World Series champion.

Kontos was a late substitution for previously announced guest Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong was dealing with an eye infection on Thursday, and everybody felt it was best he didn’t make the trip.

There were awards presented during the night as well. Niko Pacheco (Bullard HS) and Rachel Rodriguez (Central HS) were presented with the Gus Zernial Male and Female Athlete of the Year award, respectively. Jay Pruess and his Kerman High School baseball team garnered the Coach of the Year and Team of the Year awards. Gardner was surprised with the 2013 Al Radka Award, which is given to an individual who helps the community through the game of baseball.

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The Fresno Grizzlies want to thank everyone who attended the Gala as well as the guest speakers for helping make the night memorable. Now, it is time to start the baseball season!

Planes, Trophies and Automobiles

By: Noah
Frank

John Lennon
once said “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
It’s a good idea to keep that quotation handy when you live in a world that
constantly changes on the fly, as those of us who work in baseball certainly
do. One has to keep life in perspective in the wake of impending rainouts,
back-to-back extra inning games, or the sudden realization that one of the
guests of honor at your 50th anniversary charity dinner is snowed in
at an airport
in a state halfway across the country where it almost never
snows.

That’s the
position in which we found ourselves last Thursday, fighting the ever more firm
reality that we would be without Will Clark, The Thrill, the man who we had
worked for over a year to secure, for the Hot Stove Gala. It was about 10:30 in
the morning, or about seven 

Thumbnail image for romo_hot_stove.jpg

hours before the doors were to open to the public
when we first found out. To quote the poet Robert Burns, “The best laid plans
of mice and men, oft go awry”.

Thankfully,
through some expert maneuvering and generosity from those involved with our
parent club up north, we were privileged to host two very entertaining substitutes
in Giants pitcher and former Grizzly Sergio Romo as well as longtime Giants
player and current front office member Jim Davenport. Coupled with Matt
Williams
, Mark Gardner and Steve Decker, our guests were still treated to a
panel of world class players and personalities.

Of course,
there was also the Trophy. The real star of the show, the “big ticket” if you
will, may well have been the inanimate object sitting by itself on a black
tablecloth at the far end of the entry hall. Surrounded by more security than a
pop star, the golden circle of flags was a perfect centerpiece for this golden
anniversary event, and its presence lent a resplendent tone to the evening, one
that surely would not have existed without it.

Romo,
meanwhile, made one of his biggest relief appearances to date. Pulled off a
commercial he was shooting in San Francisco that morning, he was whisked into
the backseat of the World Champions Trophy Truck and rushed to Fresno with
enough time to be debriefed about the event and grab a Starbucks before the
doors opened. His laid back and 

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easy-going personality helped him steal the
show, as he fielded question after question about his beard and his
relationship with off-color closer Brian Wilson, all with far more polish than
his 27 years would suggest.

Joining Romo
as a last-minute replacement was the 13-year Major League veteran, Davenport. He drove down from the Bay Area
on almost no notice as well, bringing his son with him. The Siluria, Alabama
native kept the mood light and jovial, charming the crowd by recounting stories
and cracking jokes about Romo’s beard in his thick-as-taffy southern drawl.

Clark
certainly did his part, calling the airline from the tarmac in Dallas, trying
to switch his flight and find a way to Fresno. When he had exhausted every
possible option, he shot an apology video on his cell phone and emailed it to
us. He also agreed– when we finally got a hold of him again just before the
dinner began– to return to Fresno for a private reception for all of those who
missed him at Hot Stove. It was a classy thing for him to do, and we can’t wait
to bring him back to where he began his professional career later this summer.

Moreover,
Romo and Williams both stayed to fulfill every last autograph and photo
request. In our world, where we are too often bombarded with stories of the
arrogance of some professional athletes, it was a welcome and truly touching
sight to see each and every one of our fans go home happy, in the wake of what
could have been a disastrous day. Thanks again to all our guests and the Giants
for making this a Hot Stove to remember.

Photos by Don Davis: Sergio Romo (top) and Jim Davenport entertain a crowd of nearly 1,000 guests at last week’s Hot Stove Gala. Will Clark movie below.

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The Once And Future King

By: Noah Frank

As a kid
growing up, I remember watching Patrick Roy, goalie for the Colorado Avalanche,
and reflecting upon his last name. Having learned French at an early age, I
recognized his last name as being close to the French word for “king” (roi),
hence his nickname: King Patrick. The rabid baseball fan that I am, I always
saw the same thing whenever the Rookies of the Year were announced in the
acronym for the award: ROY. So this season, when the Giants’ Twitter fan site
@SF_Giants began their ROYPosey hashtag push, I could think of only one thing:

King Posey.

That was a
far cry from my first impression of the young man carrying the burden of all 

the hopes of a long-suffering fan base. I first met Buster Posey at our annual Hot
Stove Dinner
, last February 4th. On a brisk Thursday night in
downtown Fresno, he strolled into 

the banquet room at the Holiday Inn. Clad in
a modest dress shirt and slacks, no tie, a modest sport coat and a closely cropped haircut,
he might as well have been a member of the military on leave. I have stood next
to some of the most imposing legends of the modern era: Randy Johnson, Roger poseyhotstove.jpgClemens, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi. This kid did not have that same striking
presence as legends like those. He was just that- a kid.

Standing
behind the row of speakers who were seated up on stage that night, I could see
his hands shake under the table as he addressed the crowd. His even, mild tone
was much softer than that of his fellow athletes that night, retired Major
Leaguers Dave Dravecky, Steve Decker and Mark Gardner. One could forgive a
young man in his early 20s for not having the same composure as those twice his
age, much less those with public speaking and minor league managerial
experience. But this was supposed to be the chosen one, not only the offensive
savior but also the overseer of the talented young pitching staff expected to
help push the Giants into contention for a World Championship.

Two months
later came the blitz of a highly anticipated media day and an even bigger
Opening Day. Joining Posey on the media rounds was an even younger, even
greener prospect, fireballer Madison Bumgarner. By now Posey seemed more
comfortable, perhaps more at ease and back in his element wearing a jersey and
cleats instead of street clothes. I guided Bumgarner, Decker and him through
the row of television cameras lining the terrace behind the right-field seats.
He handled himself capably, and with a walk-off win in front of nearly 14,000
fans that night
, the questions that followed were mostly softballs.

The team’s record-setting start certainly helped as well, as the Grizzlies stormed out to
a 32-16 start with Posey on the team. As anyone who works in baseball knows,
though, the season is long and tiresome, and certainly has its ups and downs.
The Giants were off to a good start as well, but questions about their offense
lingered. Suddenly, they dropped five straight, culminating in a weekend sweep
at the hands of the cross-town rival Oakland Athletics
in which they managed just a
single run total, dropping their record to 22-21 on May 23rd. Posey
responded the next day, an off-day for the Giants, by going 4-for-4 against the Memphis Redbirds.

The constant
media pressure will begin to grate on anyone as the season progresses, especially
when you have to answer the same question over and over: “Why aren’t you in San
Francisco yet?” Ever the even-keeled diplomat in front of the camera, he gave
all the right answers. But after that Oakland series, the cries could be heard
all the way from San Francisco. The local beat writer asked me what I thought
the chances were of Posey still 

being a Grizzly when the team returned from its
next road trip, an eight-game swing 

Bumgarner Posey.jpgthrough Salt Lake City and Las Vegas that
would not return them to the Central Valley until June 5th.

“90
percent,” I remember saying. Oops.

That Friday
night the Grizzlies polished off an 8-0 pasting of the Salt Lake Bees to open
that trip, with Posey going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double and an RBI to back
Madison Bumgarner’s 7.2 innings of four-hit, shutout ball. Life was about as
splendid as it could be for a Grizzlies fan, sitting 10.5 games up in first place. About an hour later I received a
text from the Giants’ V.P. of Baseball Operations that Buster was being called
up the next day.

In addition
to being sad about losing Buster from our lineup, I was more worried what the
pressure of a media market the size of San Francisco’s, combined with all the
national attention focused on him, would do to his calm, collected demeanor.
What would happen if he didn’t get off to a good start? How much patience would
an antsy fan base be willing to show for this 23-year-old with just 172 games
of minor league experience?

SI-World-Series-2010.jpgWell, when
you go 3-for-4 with three RBI in your first game, it takes a bit of the
pressure off. Another three-hit game the next day and a record-setting July
later on cemented his place in baseball history as the first Giant to claim
Rookie of the Year honors in 35 years.

Sure, the
expectation was there. Sure, he was named the top prospect in the system, fifth
overall in the minors by Baseball America before the season. But this? All of
this? With a World Series title to boot? I guess that this is what people mean
when they say they have watched someone grow up in front of their very eyes.

I wonder
sometimes how it feels from Buster’s perspective. It must all seem a bit
surreal, like some winding, lucid dream. Judging by how many orange-clad fans
stormed the streets of San Francisco for the victory parade, there are a lot of
people hoping he never wakes up.

(Photo Credit for first two photos: Don Davis; Credit for final photo: Sports Illustrated)

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