By: Cody Turner
It was instilled in me at an early age that baseball was not only a sport, or a game, but that it served as an event that brought people together at different levels. The togetherness can be experienced on varying degrees: from backyard catch with your family, to a nationally televised event capturing the attention of millions across the country.
As I drove through the streets of San Francisco on Tuesday, October 19th, I couldn’t help but take in the sights of the mid-day energy of the big city environment. The first whiff of the fresh, early-afternoon air had a certain positivity lingering, which only got stronger as we approached our destination.
AT&T Park was surrounded by city blocks draped in orange and black, representing the fellowship of a city and a region brought together by baseball. The enthusiasm radiated throughout the streets, with fans flocking to the stadium to enjoy the game the way many purists would say it was supposed to experienced; during the day, under the natural light of sun.
After attending nearly all 144 of the Fresno Grizzlies’ home games over the past two seasons– and only a handful of regular season games at the professional level– I couldn’t help but be a fan of what was laid out before me, and truly be thankful for what I was able to experience in my two-year involvement with the Triple-A affiliate of the Giants.
To think that just four months ago, I had the privilege of watching the Giants’ most exciting young player, Buster Posey, hone his skills at Chukchansi Park– a stage nearly a quarter of the size of AT&T Park– is remarkable. To translate that into watching guys like former Grizzly Brian Wilson warm up before taking the mound in the ninth inning of the NLCS really puts into perspective the similarities of a minor league park compared to its Major League counterpart.
Having access to a minor league ballpark, to watch an almost equally high-quality level of professional baseball as the Giants is a huge advantage. The ability to watch young players develop into big league stars, just months before they become key contributors to a MLB playoff push, is a rarity. While having the potential NL Rookie of the Year, or a back-to-back reigning NL Cy Young winner may not come through a minor league park on a regular basis, watching them compete for a chance at a World Series ring sure opens your eyes to what kind of future superstars may make a brief appearance in your own back yard.
My experiences in a smaller venue compared to that of Major League Baseball have given me an immense appreciation for what I was apart of during Game 3 of the NLCS in San Francisco. To see how a team on a national arena can draw the support of such a large city sparks the inspiration of how the smaller backdrop of an affiliated team like the Fresno Grizzlies can do the same in their own community.