45 Days Till Opening Day

45 Days Till Opening Day

Dan Runzler has pitched for both the Grizzlies and the San Francisco Giants in each of the last four seasons. The southpaw wore jersey number 45 in 2011.

The Grizzlies begin their 2013 season on April 4th at Chukchansi Park.

Presidents With The Grizzlies – or at least Presidential last names

Today is Presidents’ Day, or officially known as Washington’s Birthday. For some, it’s that second Monday they have off in February. In reality, though, it is a day that honors the 44 Presidents of the United States. The day was first celebrated as a federal holiday on the birthday of George Washington in the 1880s.

Thank the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill from 1968, though, for the Monday off. The bill moved a number of federal holidays to Mondays so workers had some long weekends.

To help get you through your day off – and in honor Presidents’ Day – here is a list of former Fresno Grizzlies who share a surname with past POTUS (or is it POTUSi?).

 

Tyler

Josh Tyler (1998, 2000-01)

Shares name with the 10th US President, John Tyler (1841-45)

Tyler was a utility player for the Grizzlies during their inaugural season in 1998 and again later in 2000 and 2001. Tyler even made three appearances for the Grizzlies as pitcher over the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He allowed three runs over four innings in the three games. In fact, during the 2000 season, Tyler played every position except shortstop. His last professional season was with Fresno in 2001. He batted .287 in 77 games with the Grizzlies in 2001, but he carried a .404 batting average in August, his final month in pro baseball.

John Tyler could be viewed as utility player for the United States government. Tyler manned many different positions, including state legislator, governor, US representative, US Senator, Vice President, and then, of course, President. Tyler was the first person to succeed as President of the United States due to the death of the incumbent as William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia while in office.

 

Johnson

Brian Johnson (1998)

Mike Johnson (2003)

Share name with 17th US President Andrew Johnson (1865-69) and 36th US President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69).

Two Presidents had the last names Johnson as did two former Grizzlies. First up is Brian Johnson. The catcher appeared in five games with Fresno on MLB Rehab. He had two home runs in his short time with the Grizzlies, including one of his homers being a part of back-to-back-to-back home runs to begin the fourth inning on August 4th. Among Giants fans (and Dodgers fans for that matter), Brian Johnson is remembered for this.

Mike Johnson spent parts of five seasons in the Majors (1997-2001) with the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 17th round of the 1993 Draft. The native of Edmonton spent all of the 2003 season with Fresno, making 30 appearances (including four starts) and going 4-3 with a 3.72 ERA. Mike Johnson closed out his career pitching in Korea and independent leagues, including his hometown club Edmonton in 2007, 2009, and 2010.

Andrew and Lyndon were Presidential relievers as both took over as President due to their predecessors’ assassinations.

Lyndon has a more direct tie to the game of baseball: he played in high school.

 

Wilson

Brian Wilson (2005-07)

Shares name with Woodrow Wilson, 28th President (1913-21)

Brian Wilson’s time with the Grizzlies was pre-beard; some fans might not be able to recognize the tenure in more ways than one. Wilson was a standard arm out of the bullpen in his first season with Fresno in 2005, making nine appearances and going 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA and no saves. In 2006 and 2007, however, Wilson’s role as a closer began to take shape as he saved 18 games for the Grizzlies over the two seasons.

Woodrow Wilson is recognized for being a leader of the Progressive Movement, helping see legislation pass such as Federal Reserve Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, Federal Farm Loan Act, and an income tax. While Brian isn’t necessarily a leader in baseball’s progressivism, his actions are seen as newer to the traditional ways of baseball (i.e. The Beard).

 

Ford

Darren Ford (2011)

Shares name with Gerald Ford, 38th President (1974-77)

These two Fords can be known for one thing: quickness. Darren was 10-for-10 in stolen base opportunities with the Grizzlies in 2011. He primarily served as pinch runner for the Giants in 2010 and 2011 due to his speed on the base paths.

Gerald’s time in office can be described as quick in that his 895-day presidency is the shortest of all US Presidents who did not die in office.

The two also share the bond of football. Gerald was star linebacker and center for the University of Michigan’s national championship teams in 1932 and 1933. Darren, meanwhile, was a standout in football as well as baseball – and track – at Vineland High School. Darren received his fair share of college letters for football, baseball, and track.

 

Bush

Evan Bush (2006)

Shares name with George H.W. Bush, 41st President (1989-93) and George W. Bush, 43rd President (2001-09).

The father-and-son presidential duo has direct ties to baseball. George H.W. played for the Yale baseball team and participated in the first two College World Series. George W. was part owner of the Texas Rangers, serving as managing general partner for five years.

Evan Bush was one-and-done when he came to his baseball career. After being drafted by the Giants in 2006 out of Alabama, Bush played in 32 games with Short-Season Salem-Keizer. He played in three games for the Grizzlies that same season as a late-season replacement while other Grizzlies were summoned to San Francisco for a round of September call-ups.

Evan Bush quit pro baseball after one season in 2006. Since, he has been a collegiate coach, earning top junior college and top assistant coach honors from the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association. He is currently an assistant baseball coach at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. Prior to UAH, Evan coached for three seasons at Bevill State Community College in Fayette, Alabama.

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!

Who’s Next – Top Prospects Ranked

MLB.com and Baseball America released their respective 2013 Top Prospect lists for the San Francisco Giants organizations.

The MLB.com version is for the Top 100 prospects in all of baseball. Two Giants cracked the list: RHP Kyle Crick at #86 and OF Gary Brown at #100. This is the first time Crick made the MLB.com list while Brown was #48 for the 2012 version.

Baseball America, meanwhile, has been rolling out their organizational top prospects for each farm system over the last few weeks. January 30th was the Giants’ turn. Beat writer Andy Baggarly filed this year’s list as he has done in years past.

Crick was the top choice for the Baseball America list. Brown was fourth. While Crick is not considered to appear in Triple-A this season, many project Brown to possibly start the season with Fresno or at least make a stop with the Grizzlies some time in 2013.

Brown played all of 2012 with Double-A Richmond. He struggled early on with the Flying Squirrels, hitting .227 through his first 23 games, but he rebounded with a strong May and June to finish with a .279 batting average. He also played in the Arizona Fall League this offseason.

Three Fresno Grizzlies from 2012 were in the Top 10 Prospect List: Heath Hembree (#7), Francisco Peguero (#8), and Roger Kieschnick (#9).

Hembree is coming off his first pro season at Triple-A. He tied for the team lead with the Grizzlies in saves with 15 despite missing a month-and-a-half with an arm injury. Before he went on the disabled list, Hembree was elected to the PCL mid-season All-Star team.

Peguero parlayed his first Triple-A season into his Major League debut last August. Peguero had a team-best 10 triples for Fresno last season, which are tied for the second-most ever by a Grizzlies hitter in a single season. The outfielder made his big league debut on August 25th and played in a total of 17 games for the Giants.

Peguero was rated as having the best outfield arm in the Giants system by Baseball America once again. Here’s proof of that distinction. Yeah, we think he deserves it.

Kieschnick also made his Triple-A debut in 2012. He missed three months due to a left shoulder injury, but still managed to pace the Grizzlies in home runs with 15. Here is video evidence of power.

Kieschnick went down with the injury on May 31st, when he was batting .319. He appeared in four games as a designated hitter in the final series of the season from August 31-September 3, hitting a home run in the penultimate game.

Another name to watch for on the possible 2013 Grizzlies roster is Michael Kickham. The left-handed pitcher was placed fifth on Baseball America’s Top 10 list. The Missouri State product made 27 starts over 28 games for Double-A Richmond in 2012, going 11-10 with a 3.05 ERA. He had 137 strikeouts and 75 walks in 150.2 innings pitched.

He has quickly risen through the Giants system – he skipped High-A San Jose – and he may earn a shot at Triple-A in 2013 based on his career projection thus far. Kickham is rated as having the best slider in the Giants system according to Baseball America, a lethal pitch for a southpaw. The 24-year-old was selected by the Giants in the sixth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

Are Your Students Wild About Reading?

Photo Jan 18, 8 48 48 AM

By Camille Moultrie

How do you get your students Wild About Reading? Parker can show you how reading and fun can go hand in hand.

Parker danced and celebrated with the students and faculty at the Easterby Elementary assemblPhoto Jan 18, 8 36 26 AMy recently for their outstanding reading achievements! The students won two laptops for their school’s library through the Grizzlies Community Fund’s Wild About Reading program. Easterby won the laptops by having the highest attendance of all Wild About Reading schools at their assigned game during the 2012 Grizzlies season.

Easterby students partied the morning away with Parker and even got to see their teachers boogie on stage as well!

The Wild About Reading Program is a fantastic way to get students thrilled about reading and the chance to cheer on our very own Fresno Grizzlies! Each student enrolled in the program is challenged to read 10 books over five weeks. If a student reaches the goal, then he or she receives two free tickets to a Grizzlies game.

Over 90,000 Central San Joaquin Valley students are enrolled in the Wild About Reading program in 2013. Also, as part of the program, each student receives a free Farm Grown magazine, which features the short story “Parker Goes To The Farm.”

We are still accepting schools, however, for 2013. If you are interested, please call the Community Fund at (559) 320-2547.

            
"After the assembly there was an explosion of excitement that not just challenged the kids to read above and beyond what they were normally doing but got them more excited to read different books," Easterby Elementary Library Tech Kelly Mitchinson said.

“After the assembly there was an explosion of excitement that not just challenged the kids to read above and beyond what they were normally doing but got them more excited to read different books,” Easterby Elementary Library Tech Kelly Mitchinson said.

Hot Stove With A World Series, Farm Grown Twist

Did you hear? Ryan Vogelsong and Doug Fister will be the guest speakers at the 52nd Anniversary Hot Stove Gala. The event is on Thursday, February 7th at the Fresno Convention Center in Downtown Fresno.

The Hot Stove dinner, which benefits the Fresno Grizzlies Community Fund, will be filled with plenty of conversations about the World Series and playing baseball in the Central San Joaquin Valley.

So why did we choose Vogelsong and Fister – and they graciously accept – to be speakers? Let’s break that down:

  • Vogelsong was the Grizzlies’ Opening Day starting pitcher in each of the last two seasons. Both starts had different reasons, though. In 2011, the right-hander was giving what seemed to be one final shot at being a Major League pitcher. He impressed the Giants over two starts with the Grizzlies and was the player selected to replace Barry Zito in the starting rotation. In 2012, Vogelsong started the year with Fresno on Major League Rehab assignment.
  • Vogelsong is one of the 17 of the 25 Giants on the World Series roster who have worn both a Grizzlies and Giants uniform. Vogelsong, being that he was drafted by the Giants and groomed in the organization with a stop in Fresno, is one of the Farm Grown stars on the Giants.
  • Vogelsong first pitched with the Grizzlies in 2001 (that’s the Beiden Field era). While 1
    Ryan Vogelsong

    Ryan Vogelsong has pitched for the Grizzlies in 2001, 2011 and 2012 (Don Davis/dadphoto.com)

    7 of the 25 players from the Giants’ World Series roster at one time played for the Grizzlies, Vogelsong is the only one who can claim he wore the purple and black jerseys (for what it’s worth). Vogelsong made 10 starts for Fresno in 2001.

  • Vogelsong’s story is one all fans would want to hear. The former Giants draft pick also pitched in his home state with the Pittsburgh Pirates before going on a journey to Japan for three seasons with two different teams. Once he returned from Japan in 2010, he spent allof the first season in Triple-A wondering if he would ever get the opportunity again to pitch in the big leagues. Since then, Vogelsong has been named a National League All-Star, honored with the Willie Mac award winner and won a World Series. Not bad considering his path.
  • Fister faced the Giants in game two of the 2012 World Series. Fister allowed only one run over six-plus innings, striking out three and walking one. He suffered the loss as the Giants beat the Tigers 2-0.
  • Fister was first drafted by the Giants in the 49th round of the 2003 Draft, but he elected not to sign.
  • Fister is from Merced, California and went to high school at Golden Valley High in Merced, which is about 50 minutes from Downtown Fresno.
  • Fister attended Merced Junior College and Fresno State. He pitched for the Bulldogs from 2005-06, and he earned All-Western Athletic Conference honors as a senior in 2006.
  • In his Fresno State athletics bio, he listed his biggest athletic thrill (before he was a pro) was pitching at “SBC Park,” or now known as AT&T Park, home of the Giants.
  • While he has never pitched in Chukchansi Park in his pro career, Fister has faced the Grizzlies twice. He faced the Grizzlies at Cheney Stadium in 2009 when he was pitching for the Tacoma Rainiers.

From The Actor’s Chair – Parental Guidance

Little known fact: Parker, everyone’s favorite mascot, moonlights as a movie critic. Read below for his take on Parental Guidance, in theaters on December 25th.

Parker on the set of the movie Parental Guidance.

Parker on the set of the movie Parental Guidance.

On December 19th, the Grizzlies front office, some season ticket holders chosen via a random drawing and over 100 of our closest friends (chosen by the Fresno Beehive) were fortunate to get an early look at the movie Parental Guidance).

First, let me say the movie was GREAT! And when I say great, I mean elegantly told and hilariously written. (I guess I could have said that the first time.)

But I’m not here to critique the entire movie. That’s up to the professionals).

I’m going to share my thoughts on the most important parts: me…and the Grizzlies playing at Chukchansi Park.

My shining moment came during the Kiss Cam scene. I’m not going to spoil it, but someone does kiss another person (surprise!). I have to say, I looked great on the big screen.

There are some other great shots of the game at Chukchansi Park. An aerial shot of the stadium in Downtown Fresno. Artie walking out one last time through the centerfield gates. All beautifully captured by the movie crew.

Billy Crystal…er, I mean, Artie Decker was hilarious calling the action. Now, he is no Doug Greenwald, but Artie did hold his own. He had some great one-liners, keeping listeners on their feet (or on their seats, I suppose, since most people listen to the radio sitting down).

The unfortunate part is Artie’s time with the Grizzlies is short-lived in the movie. The baseball broadcaster of 35 years is fired because he cannot Tweet, poke on Facebook or the worst yet, #Hashtag. Clearly, Artie’s character did not consult those close to him because I have demonstrated I am capable of all those things, as seen here and here. My consulting fee is negotiable, in real-life or in the movies (I like food. Lots of it. It always goes straight to my midsection.)

We could have kept Artie as the voice of the Grizzlies even longer. I am here to entertain fans in the stadium as well as through the social media networks. Writers failed to recognize this (or they did, but it doesn’t go well with their entire plot line. I vote the latter.). We even have a bobblehead of him as a fan giveaway. Clearly, Fresno fans wanted to see more of Artie (Side note: could the actual Grizzlies give away this Artie Decker bobblehead in 2013? Stay tuned…).

Parker poses with some fellow actors from Parental Guidance.

Parker poses with some fellow actors from Parental Guidance.

Artie’s misfortune does breathe new life into his personal life, though. In the end, Artie Decker’s broadcasting career brings his family together. Even when he signs off after every game with a “Lights out, Alice,” you could feel his love for his family even from afar. The unexpected exit from the Grizzlies proved to be for the better in Artie’s life. The lessons learned are something I highly approve.

The movie and special screening showed me I also enjoyed spending time with my Grizzlies family. I can’t wait for the 2013 season to start, but until then, you can see Grizzlies baseball at Chukchansi Park at a theater near you. Go see Parental Guidance. It’s worth it.

I Hate The Off-Season 4 – Episode 5

Parker loves to party. But when he finds out the world is going to end (Thanks, Mayan calendar!), the Fresno Grizzlies mascot is forced to prepare quickly for the impending apocalypse in the latest episode of “I Hate The Off-Season 4: Apocalypse Later.”

Free Agent Update – Minors Edition

Although the national headlines are (deservedly) grabbed by the likes of Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Andres Torres, the San Francisco Giants and other Major League clubs are busy restocking their entire organization, from Low-A to Triple-A, with free agents.

 

The Giants have signed several familiar faces, as well as some new ones, to minor league free agent contracts. Here is an update (according to the www.SFGiants.com Transactions page) through December 13th:

 

RHP Shane Loux – signed on December 9th

Loux split the 2012 season between Fresno and San Francisco. He appeared in 23 games for the Grizzlies, going 4-1 with a 1.41 ERA. In fact, through his first 13 games with the Grizzlies, he allowed one run over 21 innings. With the Giants, he was 1-0 with a 4.97 ERA in 19 games.

 

C Tyler LaTorre – signed on November 21st

LaTorre enters his eighth season as a pro after being signed by the Giants as a non-drafted free agent in 2006. The Santa Cruz native has spent each of the last two seasons with the Grizzlies, appearing in 94 games. His 2012 season was cut short by a week – for a good reason, though. He joined the Italian National Baseball Team to compete in the 2012 European Baseball Championships.

 

C Guillermo Quiroz – signed on November 20th

The 13-year professional joins the Giants organization for the first time in his career. In 2012, Quiroz spent the majority of the season with the Tacoma Rainiers (the Grizzlies’ 2013 Opening Day opponent). He batted .278/.362/.483 over 89 games with the Rainiers. The Venezuelan also appeared in two games with the Boston Red Sox in September of 2012. Quiroz has split his time between the Majors and minors since 2004. He spent all of 2008 with the Baltimore Orioles.

 

RHP Willy Lebron – signed on November 19th

Lebron did not pitch in 2012. He signed as a minor league free agent with the Cleveland Indians before the start of the season, but never appeared in a game at any level. The last time Lebron appeared in an official regular season game was in 2011 with the Omaha Storm Chasers. Lebron is currently pitching for Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA over his first 13 relief appearances.

 

RHP Eric Hacker – signed on November 14th

Hacker was outrighted by the Giants to Triple-A in September after being designated for assignment, but he elected free agency. In 2012, Hacker went 12-6 with a 4.01 ERA in 26 games (25 starts) for the Grizzlies. He made four appearances for the Giants, including his first career Major League start on April 27th. If he makes it to 2013 Opening Day with the Giants organization, it will be Hacker’s third season with the Giants. Hacker ranks third in Grizzlies franchise history in career wins with 28.

 

RHP Fabio Castillo – signed on November 14th

The 23-year-old has spent his entire pro career in the Texas Rangers organization. In 2012, he split the year between Double-A Frisco and Round Rock, making 14 appearances for the Express and striking out 13 and walking 14. From 2010-12, he pitched for Frisco. His best year with Frisco was this past season when he posted a 2.89 ERA over 21 appearances and striking out 28 over 37 1/3 innings. The 2013 season will be Castillo’s eighth year as a professional.

Offseason League Update – Dec. 12, 2012

Here is a look at how some Grizzlies from the 2012 season are performing in their respective offseason leagues:

Yusmeiro Petit – Bravos de Margarita (Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional)
1-3 with a 4.30 ERA in 4 starts

After going winless through his first three starts, Petit picked up his first win of the winter season on December 5th against Leones del Caracas. Petit may have walked four batters in the winning decision, but he was beyond effective, as he did not allow a run over eight innings. The right-hander did not pitch more than seven innings in all of the 2012 regular season. Also of note (but probably lacks any meaning), in Petit’s last 12 starts, which date back to July 29th with the Grizzlies, he has recorded a decision in 11 of the games. In his first 21 starts in 2012, he only had six decisions.

Jean Machi – Navegantes de Magallanes (Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional)
0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in 10 games

Machi’s sole appearance last week came on December 4th. His final pitching line looks good (2/3 innings pitched, no runs, one hit), but the devil is in the details. Machi entered the eighth inning with runners on first and third base and one out. He forced a groundout to the first batter he faced, but it allowed one run to score. The next batter singled to score another run, making the score 3-0 (which eventually turned out to be the final score). Since none of the runners were charged to Machi, the 2/3 scoreless innings did lower Machi’s ERA slightly from 7.71 to 7.20.

Francisco Peguero – Gigantes del Cibao (Liga de Beisbol Dominicano)
.197/.234/.295 with 6 RBI in 16 games

Over three games last week, Peguero went hitless in 10 plate appearances (nine at-bats) with five strikeouts. Peguero has struck out at least once in seven consecutive games (13 total strikeouts) and is batting .083 (2-for-24) over the same stretch. Peguero has continued to play center field in each of his 16 games with Cibao. With the Grizzlies in 2012, Peguero played in 27 games as a center fielder (77 games a right fielder).

Jackson Williams – Escognido (Liga de Beisbol Dominicano)
.275/.310/.400 with 5 RBI in 12 games

Full disclosure: Williams slipped through the cracks in our previous Winter League updates. Williams, a catcher for the Grizzlies in each of the last three seasons, is playing for Leones del Escogido. He made his first appearance with Escogido on November 17th. After batting .179 through his first seven games, Williams is hitting .500 (6-for-12) with four runs scored and two RBIs in his last five contests.

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