“Inside the Core” is a month-long interview series with members of the Fresno Grizzlies front office. Each interview will be unique in its own way and provide a glimpse into the path each member has forged on their way to working for the club.
Did you play baseball as a kid?
I started playing baseball when I was probably six or seven years old and then played all the way until I was 16.
You weren’t one of those kids wanting to go to the Major Leagues?
I think every kid wants to be a professional baseball player or some kind of pro athlete.
You were born in Redwood City, California, so when did you move to Clovis?
What did you picture yourself doing outside of high school?
Something in sports. I wanted to be an agent when I was growing up, but then I realized how much law school you need for that so I rerouted into another direction. But, I always knew I wanted to do something in sports, whether it was youth sports or professional.
Did you have a role model growing up?
Growing up my favorite baseball player was Kevin McReynolds from the New York Mets. The Mets were my favorite team when I was a kid simply because McReynolds played outfield and I was an outfielder as a kid. He was probably the one I always looked up to as a kid growing up.
First part-time job?
My first job was at Wild Water Adventures. I was a catering cook making $4 an hour to work over a hot barbecue the entire summer. It was terrible!
You parlayed the teenage job into a full-time gig in radio. Where was your first radio job?
First radio marketing job was here in Fresno for KRZR and B95.
Being that it was your first job in radio, were you nervous to get in the studio?
No, you know what, it was one of those things where I did every job nobody wanted to do. I wanted to learn as much as I could so when someone said ‘I don’t want to do that’ or ‘I want to be on vacation’ I could step in and do it. And I kind of take the same route now that if someone doesn’t want to do something I’ll just do it myself and get it done because I want to learn more. Every day is a new opportunity for you to figure out how to do something new, whether it’s at work, a job assignment, or something else.
What led you to move to Las Vegas?
A radio marketing job. It was a big change. I was 24. It was pretty cool because I moved to a city that is 24 hours a day and never stops, and it truly never stops. But that’s where I started growing more of my passion with baseball because they had the Las Vegas 51s Triple-A team, and I was always going to their games for promotions and marketing. Between the job and attending games, it sparked my excitement in wanting to learn more about the business side of professional baseball.
The tough part about [Las Vegas] is the constant 24-hour cycle. With radio, you have events that don’t start until 2:00 a.m. so you’ll be working all day and you go home for a couple hours only to turn around and head back to work until 6:00 a.m.
What brought you back to Clovis?
My wife’s job transferred us back to Fresno. She’s from Fresno as well. Luckily, I was able to stay in sports marketing.
You latched on with ESPN Radio, right? How was that?
It was great. I worked for a really good guy who gave me an opportunity to learn a lot more about sports marketing. Working for ESPN, they provide a lot of tools that you don’t get anywhere else. It was always funny because you’d say oh I work for ESPN radio, and everybody’s thinking ‘Oh my god you work in Bristol, Connecticut?’ And it’s like no, I work here in Fresno and they’re like, ‘Oh how’s that work?’ And you have to explain to them that it’s a private owner that owns the affiliate here. But you know, when you up and say, you know I’m with ESPN radio, those four letters are like magic.
How has it been to be back living in Clovis where you grew up?
Um, very weird. My family now lives a half mile from where I grew up. It’s very, very weird to see that whole area when it was nothing and now how big and grown up it is.
We have to ask… where did you meet your wife?
I met her at Porky’s Bar and Grill (laughs). Classy establishment! I was doing a radio event there and we met by um, how do you say it, “cheersing” Corona bottles. Well, there’s always a dispute there. There’s still a dispute 14 years later but…
You two have a son and a daughter, but did you always picture having children?
I always wanted kids, at least two kids. I wanted three kids but we were blessed to have two kids, a boy and a girl, so it worked out really well.
What’s the defining moment in your life thus far?
Seeing my kids born was probably the coolest thing to ever see happen. Your first born comes and you think right away how much your life has changed. I freaked out when that happened. I had a panic attack that day; I was like what the hell is going on.
Do you and your wife do anything without the kids?
No, we’re very active in our kid’s lives whether it’s with school, extracurricular activities, baseball, soccer, or travel basketball. We’re doing these things all the time so we don’t really have a lot of time to ourselves. With my work here during the baseball season most of my summer is already spoken for. But I will tell you something, when you get into a relationship with someone, whether you work in baseball or radio, you have to find that person who understands the demands it’s going to be, because not everybody can handle being away from somebody for long periods of time. I think it’s better for our relationship that we’re not together all of the time. We’re both able to have time to ourselves and time with the kids. We make the most of all of the chances we get to spend as a family.
Those opportunities get a little tougher with the Minor League Baseball schedule. When you joined the Fresno Grizzlies in 2011, what position did you enter as?
I came in as VP of Marketing and since then I’ve taken over the operations and the team store aspects. Each year has presented new challenges, but I’m glad with the positive steps the organization has made in a short period of time.
Is there any time for summer vacations?
Usually at least one! The kids like going to Pismo. Two years ago we went to Phoenix to see Tombstone and the Grand Canyon. Last year we took them to the Triple-A All-Star game in Reno because I had to be up there for work and it was kind of a cool thing for them to accompany me on. They had a great time.
We learned your favorite TV show is Seinfeld. Ever have a Seinfeld moment with the Grizzlies?
I always feel like I’m George Costanza, I always feel that way. Working the different areas here there is always something happening or you’re seeing something that’s happening and it’s just like, how is this possibly happening?! There’s a Kramer here, there’s a Jerry here, and there’s definitely an Elaine Benes here. I think every character from Seinfeld works in this organization.
What’s a motto you live by?
Just don’t ever put yourself above anything. Don’t ever think you’re too good to do something. You know, just because you have a title and just because you’re at certain level with a company, you can always do things to help out others. Always follow your dreams and don’t ever have anybody tell you that you can’t do something. Lastly, always be family oriented.
Part three of the Behind the Bobble series winds down with the final planning and production process of the Matt Cain bobblehead. These final stages included final approval and sponsorship inclusion.
Bobblehead and sponsor must be approved by the Grizzlies before the Chinese New Year begins. Once the holiday begins, the production factory shuts down for three weeks. With the Matt Cain promo scheduled for May 18th, missing these three weeks can be the difference in receiving the bobbleheads in time or having fans wonder why the Grizzlies didn’t deliver on their promotion. As we all know, bobbleheads are not something to mess around with when it comes to Minor League Baseball fans.
Almost to the finish line. If you notice, the green on the back is a lighter shade of green from the front of the base. To keep it consistent, we asked the production company to make the same color throughout the base, front and back.
One of the crucial parts of all giveaways: the sponsor. The final mock-up was sent to us with the sponsor added, PG&E.
Sponsorships of giveaways allows two businesses to work together to grow. With PG&E, the inclusion on the bobblehead is a component of the larger sponsorship deal. By including them, they are gaining the visibility on an item that fans will display at home or in the office for a long time. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are able to offset some of the costs of the giveaway item while still hoping to increase ticket sales for that particular game.
Want to see the final version of the Matt Cain Farm Grown Bobblehead? Come out to the game on May 18th at Chukchansi Park!
Welcome to part two of the “Behind the Bobble” series, showing the creation and progression of the first bobblehead in the 2013 Farm Grown Bobblehead Series. In the first part, we showed the different photos used to help the bobblehead artists design the mock-up.
The first painted images of the Matt Cain bobblehead have arrived! Going from the clay to paint is definitely a night-and-day flip. The detail on the bobblehead is great to see, from the hat to the jersey logo to the Grizzlies sleeve patch.
The one suggestion and fix made to this version was moving him to the left. This will help center him more and not lean so heavily to the right of the base.
This round of moldings shows the Matt Cain bobblehead moved to the left per the suggestions from last time. As shown in the photo (more visible in the photo from behind the bobblehead), the slight change makes a big difference.
Brett Pill had 31 RBIs entering the week, an RBI number held in envy by the rest of the PCL as he was atop the leaderboard. Six games later, and Pill increased his RBI total to 47 RBIs after driving in 16 runs over the week. That is over 2.5 RBIs per game. If Pill only had his RBIs from this past week, he still would rank third on the Grizzlies.
Instead, Pill is leading all of baseball in RBIs, drawing affiliated baseball to drool over his gaudy RBI count. That includes Minors and Majors. The highest total in the MLB (though May 12) is Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers with 40. Pill had 40 midway through last Thursday’s (May 9) game.
Kensuke Tanaka had six stolen bases entering the week, which were tied for the most on the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies second baseman then went on to steal 5 bases (in as many chances) to bump his season total to 11. His 11 stolen bases are tied for the third-most in the PCL (through May 12).
Tanaka has already nearly matched the Grizzlies’ 2012 stolen base leader, Skyler Stromsmoe and his 13 steals.
Tanaka also had 13 stolen bases in all of 2012 with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan. The infielder has stolen as many as 34 stolen bases in a season (2010) during his career. He did have his 2011 season cut short due to a fracture in his left foot, which affected his 2012 campaign and ability to steal bases.
Heath Hembree entered the week tied for second in the PCL in saves, and he left the week as the league lead dog. The right-hander was a perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities, although some of those saves were easier than others.
On May 10 at Nashville, Hembree entered the bottom of the 12th inning of an already long game (there was a one hour, 13 minute delay in the first pitch). The Grizzlies took the lead in the top half of the inning, but Hembree promptly allowed back-to-back singles to lead off the bottom half followed by a walk to load the bases. With the pressure turned up, Hembree locked in by striking out two and inducing a fly out to end the game unscathed.
In his other three outings during the week, Hembree did not allow a hit over 2 2/3 innings. (He did allow an inherited runner to score on May 7, but the run crossed home plate via a sacrifice fly. One cannot blame Hembree completely for doing what he was asked to do: get an out).
The Grizzlies finished the week on a three-game winning streak, and those three wins were not automatic wins either.
Each win in the three-game winning streak was of the come-from-behind nature. On May 10 at Nashville, the Grizzlies scored two runs in the top of the first — only to have that advantage evaporate when the Sounds tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom half of the first and later score one run in each the fourth and sixth innings. No fear, though, as the Grizzlies scored two runs in the seventh that forced extra-innings. The game turned out to be the longest for Fresno this season, but the wait was worth it as they walked away with a 5-4 win in 12 innings.
In the first game of the Memphis series on May 11, the Grizzlies shook off an early-game offensive slumber by breaking out for six runs in the sixth-inning. Pinch-hitter Chris Dominguez capped the frame with a three-run home run.
The next day, on May 12, the Grizzlies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. For the second time in three days, however, the Grizzlies allowed their opponent to flip the Grizzlies’ advantage into a 4-2 lead of their own. The Grizzlies rallied by scoring two runs in the seventh to force extra innings (as they did two days earlier). The only difference in the May 12 game compared to May 10: the Grizzlies scored more than one run in extra-innings. On May 12, the Grizzlies made sure there was no hope for their opponent as Fresno scored three runs in the 11th inning of an eventual 7-4 win.
Chris Heston went 2-0 in his two starts this past week despite posting a 6.55 ERA (8er, 11.0ip). Welcome to the PCL. He did strike out 13 and walk two. The right-hander is fifth in the PCL in strikeouts with 42 through May 12.
The Grizzlies did something they have not done for 1,759 games: win without registering a strikeout. On May 2, Shane Loux, Jake Dunning, and Dan Runzler threw nine innings but did not fan one Sacramento River Cats batter. It did not matter, though, because the trio of hurlers limited Sacramento to five runs – while the Fresno offense supported them with 11 runs.
Prior to this past week, the last time the Grizzlies won a game without striking out a batter was August 21, 2000 at Tucson. Ryan Jensen (7.1 IP) and Jason Davis (1.2 IP) threw in the game.
The Grizzlies have played in a game in which their pitchers did not record a strikeout, though, before the 2000 season. The last time that happened was June 16, 2004, also against Sacramento. The Grizzlies had three games during the 2004 season in which their pitchers did not strike out any of their opponents.
Brett Pill had a hitting streak reach a baker’s dozen. His 13-game hitting streak ended on May 3, but it still matched Roger Kieschnick for the longest hitting streak by a Grizzlies batter this season. Pill had 23 hits over the 13-game stretch.
It fell one game short of tying his career-high hitting streak of 14 games set twice (Last: July 29-August 11, 2010 with Fresno).
Michael Kickham tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings on May 3 vs. Colorado Springs, which was the longest outing so far by a Fresno pitcher this season. It was Kickham’s longest outing since July 12, 2012 with Richmond.
It was the most shutout innings thrown by a Fresno pitcher since another left-hander turned in a complete game shutout on June 21, 2011 vs. Salt Lake: Giants pitcher Barry Zito.
Ok, Zito was on MLB Rehab assignment. He was an established Major League pitcher (read: Cy Young winner), so pitching against Triple-A hitters was a step below from he sees every fifth day currently in his career.
So the last non-MLB-Rehab-assignment Grizzlies pitcher to throw more than 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball before Kickham? Another left-hander familiar to Grizzlies and Giants fans: Madison Bumgarner, on May 28, 2010 vs. Salt Lake.
Carter Jurica delivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Grizzlies’ their first walk-off win of the season as they beat the Sacramento River Cats 8-7 on April 29.
The Grizzlies had 9 walk-off wins in 2012.
It’s simple to be a maker. All you need is a few household items and you can make a fun, interactive project, enjoyed by children and adults.
Watch the video above to learn how to make a water bottle submarine (Grizzlies mascot Parker is not included).
Then, come out to Fresno’s first Mini Maker Faire ever on Sunday, April 21st. The event is from 12-5 pm at Chukchansi Park, which is before and during the Grizzlies game.