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 assembly 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.
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.
By: Josh Jackson
There are many young kids in this country and other parts of the world who aspire to play professional baseball when they grow older. Unfortunately, for most of us, this fantasy is eventually smothered by the harsh realities that come with the different seasons of life. We realize that the road to becoming a professional athlete is too narrow for all dreamers to travel on. On the other hand, there are some kids who are just gifted, lucky, and put in a lot of time and hard work. These kids eventually do get to play baseball professionally. We see them every summer at venues like Chukchansi Park in Downtown Fresno.
But the ultimate goal of every player performing in affiliated ball is to make it to The Show. Even out of all the players that are fortunate enough to have made it to a professional baseball team, a very minute portion will ever make it to the big leagues. So when 2011 Grizzlies Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchezmade their Major League debuts this season at such a young age, it was hard not to appreciate the rarity of the situation.
As most Grizzlies and Giants fans may know, Belt made his Major League debut on Opening Day this season. He struggled at the plate to start the year, which is very common for young hitters, and was optioned to Fresno on his 23rd birthday. Injuries to the Giants gave Sanchez his first opportunity to play in the Majors back on July 15th at the young age of 21. Most people don’t even dream of starting a career at that age and this young man started behind the plate for the defending World Series Champions. This year also marks Sanchez’ fifth year as a professional. Some simple math reveals that he was only 16 when he played his first professional baseball game.
Three-time All-star and Gold Glover Vernon Wells would know something about being on the brink of being a big time ball player at such a young age. Wells was a first-round selection by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997 when he was just 18 years old. At the age of 21, he went from playing Single-A ball to playing in the Majors in the span of one season, just like Sanchez. Wells described what it was like to be a teenager in the minor leagues.
“It was a great experience being around the older guys and guys that have played in the big leagues,” he explained. “You play around big league ballplayers everyday and it is hard to not focus on that.”
When asked what advice he would give to Hector Sanchez on the day of his Major League debut, Wells responded, “Just relax. Just stay confident. That’s the hardest part. It’s actually much easier to hit, you can see the ball easier in these (Major League) parks. Sometimes I would go rehab at these minor league stadiums and it was so difficult to see the ball.”
Perhaps confidence and the ability to relax at the plate was something Giants top prospect Brandon Belt lacked at the beginning of the season. Being sent back-and-forth between Fresno and San Francisco did not discourage Belt, as he kept a positive attitude and a healthy work ethic that was visibly apparent to even the casual observer. His focus paid off on July 19th, when he was recalled by San Francisco to face the rival Dodgers at home. Belt had no problem seeing the ball on this night, as he turned in a 2-for-4, 3 RBI performance, which included a solo shot to right field in the second inning, his first home run at AT&T Park. His contributions lifted the Giants to a much needed, 5-3 victory. Speaking with Belt after the game, you could see it felt good for him to get passed some of his early season struggles.
“The first time I was up (with the Giants) at the beginning of the year, confidence was definitely something I lacked,” Belt explained. “I put a lot of stress and pressure on myself and it definitely showed in my play. That’s one of the main things I wanted to work on when I was in Fresno. I was able to relax and find a place where I was comfortable physically and mentally and fortunately I was able to bring it back up here.”
Belt will likely finish the season with the San Francisco Giants, and it does not appear that he will be coming back our way to Fresno anytime soon. Sanchez is currently with San Jose until rosters expand in September. After talking with him in San Francisco, Sanchez expressed his excitement on finishing the year strong and getting more opportunities down the road.
“It is amazing being where I am and having a chance to play for a big league team,” Sanchez explained. “I am excited for the future and being able to play with those guys”.
Belt and Sanchez are already breathing rare air by making it to the Major League level at such a young age. Now the focus turns to doing what Vernon Wells has done, competing at the highest level for an extended period of time. The hard work and dedication to their craft will have to be pushed to the next level if they wish to have that kind of success down the road. Having witnessed their meteoric rise through the minor league system, it is hard to put a damper on their potential.
Photo Credit: Don Davis