Results tagged ‘ PCL ’

Run Like You Stole It

By: Ryan Guinan

Base stealing has become quite a habit for the 2011 Fresno Grizzlies.  The team has eclipsed three stolen base records this season and demonstrated they can put the pressure on the base paths.  Led by the PCL’s leading base stealer Tyler Graham, this group of speedsters has not hesitated to gamble an extra 90 feet if it could mean the difference in a game.

Tyler Graham has become known for lightning quick plays on the bases.  This year, he has surpassed the old franchise mark for stolen bags in a season (42) set by Calvin Murray in 1999.  Graham accomplished the feat in a winning effort on July 9th to set up a walk-off hit by Justin Christian.  Graham stole second, third and eventually scored the winning run.  Its plays like this that can change the course of a close game and perhaps a season if the situation presents itself.

Photo Credit: Don Davis

Graham’s aggressive base running has proven successful for him throughout his entire career.  Heading into an eight game road trip against Iowa and Omaha, Graham was successful in 51 of his 61 attempts to swipe an extra bag.  Graham currently leads the PCL in steals and has done so by leaving the rest of the pack in the dust.  He holds a 13 base cushion to Esteban German of the Round Rock Express who ranks second in the league.  He constantly has pushed the limit to get on base and look for an extra 90 feet that could be the difference maker.

Tyler has led this Grizzlies team to a record of their own, the franchise’s single season mark for most stolen bases by a team.  They beat out the 1999 Grizzlies who had 145 thefts that season.  On July 23rd, in a game against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Justin Christian stole second base to make it 146 on the year for the 2011 Grizzlies.  The benchmark seemed destined to be broken after last year’s club totaled 143 stolen bases, just two shy of the old franchise record.  On their way to the record, the team also recorded 10 stolen bags on April 10th against Las Vegas.  This number was good enough for another Grizzlies record, most stolen bases in a game.  The group was filled with the potential to overcome the team record with guys like Graham, Darren Ford, Emmanuel Burriss, and  Christian.  Grizzlies’ fans would expect nothing else while under the management of Steve Decker.  He has been known to harass opposing pitchers with the constant threat of a base stealer.  His ball club in San Jose totaled 205 bags swiped in 2008 and his Grizzlies last year compiled 143.  Stealing bases is no surprise for a Decker team, but much more of an expectation.

This team has made the franchise record more of a spectacle to see as they have run wild on the bases.  With the Giants ranking in the bottom of the league in run production, aggressive base running could be their answer to more runs.  Fans can recall a Grizzlies September call-up last year that led to a big win against Colorado on September 1st.

Photo Credit: Don Davis

In a 1-1 deadlock, Darren Ford was put into action, pinch-running for Mike Fontenot.  He would go on to flash his speed that day for the go-ahead run.  He didn’t hesitate one bit in his first Major League appearance.  He advanced to second base on a wild pitch and than made his way home on a throwing error to third for the game-winning score, which eventually proved to be just as important as any other run that season. The Giants had to use all 162 games in order to clinch the division and a spot in the post-season, making Ford’s speed more valuable than ever for the club.  The Giant’s base running threats are limited this year and their run production ranks amongst the bottom half of the league.  Aggressive base running could prove to be their only hope, meaning one of the Grizzlies could be called up solely for speed purposes as Ford was last year.

The Giants are attempting to repeat their World Series performance of last year while fending off surging Arizona.  San Francisco has been thriving off of one-run ballgames.  If this continues to be the case, they may need to call up another speedster from Fresno.  Although the Giants main need is hitting, they may look to have one man on the bench who can change the game in a foot race between him and the catcher’s arm for an extra 90 feet.  If this is the case, Fresno is ready to go with numerous guys who can add their speed to a World Champion.  The Grizzlies will continue to extend their records for the rest of the season and hopefully, one of them can make it up for a September call up to help make another run to the World Series.

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.

Grizzlies Alumni Report: Matt Cain


Who: Matt Cain
When He Was a Grizzly: Made 26 appearances, all starts, during the 2005 campaign.
Fresno Highlights:
?       Led the PCL and established a Grizzlies franchise record with 176 strikeouts in his
                only season with the team.
? Held opponents to a .218 batting average in 2005, lowest amongst PCL starting
                pitchers.
? Won his last five decisions of the ’05 season, dating back to July 16th.
? Led the Fresno pitching staff by recording 10 of the team’s 68 wins.
? Recorded a season-high 11 punchouts in only 5.0 innings of work on July 28th, 2005.

Matt Cain.jpg

Where He Went From Here: Cain made his Major League debut at just 20 years of age on August 29, 2005 with the San Francisco Giants against the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park. 
Where He is Now: 2010 marked Matt’s fifth full season with the San Francisco Giants after starting his big league career late in 2005. 
Career Highlights:
? Pitched a complete game in only his third start with the Giants, yielding a single run on two hits while recording eight strikeouts in a win at home against the Chicago Cubs on September 9, 2005.
? Led San Francisco pitchers with 13 wins in his first full season in 2006.
? Earned a win in six straight starts and seven straight decisions from May 7-June 14, 2009.  
? Was the longest-tenured Giant on the roster during the club’s 2010 Championship run.
? Did not allow an earned run in 21.1 innings over three postseason starts for the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.

Smaller Stadium, Enhanced Experience

For many natives of Fresno, it comes as quite a shock when they meet people who relocate to the Central Valley from preconceived “nicer” areas. Speaking from the perspective of a Bay Area boy, my response to many when they initially find out where it is I’m originally from is simple: “Fresno has its advantages”. 
As a young adult fresh out of high school, I was eager to take on the responsibilities and freedom that came with leaving the nest. Luckily for me, I was drawn to Fresno through opportunities of higher education. Little did I know that after just over six years in what I now consider home, there would be so many positives to outweigh any disadvantages.
Growing up, baseball was always top of mind. At first thought, moving three hours east to the Valley was only going to put distance between myself and the sport and teams I lived for growing up. With more consideration, the travel was actually going to be more of a baseball blessing than a letdown. 
Like most people in Fresno I was ecstatic at the thought of being able to watch young talented ballplayers before they advanced to the Majors, but took for granted how fortunate I really was. To this day I kick myself for not catching every game in April of 2007. After seeing the career that young Tim Lincecum has put together thus far from the comfort of my unenthusiastic living room, I can only imagine what Chukchansi Park was like as the dominant right hander mowed down opposing hitters in the PCL.
Following the first of back-to-back Cy Young Awards for Big Time Timmy Jim in 2008, I was certain I wouldn’t let another opportunity like that come through Fresno without being a part of it. Even though the circumstances were dramatically in my favor, I made sure I soaked up every bit of the Giants’ most recent highly anticipated prospects to come through Fresno. With Buster Posey breaking into Triple-A midway through the 2009 season, and starting the 2010 season with Madison Bumgarner, we were showered with the gift of future standouts in our own backyard.
Posey.jpg
What some people don’t realize is hat there are always other chances to see future household names, even before they show signs of stardom. A prime example from my experience in Downtown Fresno is the rise of Brian Wilson. After seeing Wilson grind through three seasons with the Grizzlies, he suddenly compiled a record-setting number of saves in San Francisco in the same amount of time he spent in Fresno. While he was just another arm in the bullpen for the Grizzlies from ’05-’07, now he’s captured the attention of millions who “Fear the Beard“.
Although it’s been recognized by some, there are still way too many Fresnans who are unaware of just how much connection the Central Valley had to the 2010 World Series. Not only did the Giants fill a 25-man roster with 15 players who wore a Grizzlies jersey at some point in there career, they were led to a Championship title by a majority of former Fresno Grizzlies.
There still may be several folks who will ask the clueless, “Wait, Matt Cain played in Fresno?” or “Buster Posey was here for two months this season?” questions. However, it would be my guess that the San Francisco Giants’ remarkable run to a World Championship, which sparked an incredible support from communities throughout Northern California, will be many peoples’ equivalent to the Tim Lincecum experience I had just a few short seasons ago. 
Whether a fan of baseball, an admirer of professional athletes, or just someone who wants to be a part of something special, the lesson here is simply not to let the future Giants like Brandon Belt, Darren Ford and Zack Wheeler breeze through Fresno without the chance to watch them play. Staying informed and involved will enhance the big league experiences you’ll encounter down the road.
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