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 email@example.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.”
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.
“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.”
Justin will be there to see every game, from the comfort of his own, personal
(Photos of Justin Renge by Pat Wallach)