Tagged: Hot Stove Gala

2012 Al Radka Award: John and Diane Carbray

By: Chris Kutz

Leadership can be tricky to define. A significant amount of time and studies have been dedicated to narrowing down what makes a good leader. None seem to give us a universal answer.

In sports, leadership can be vaguely defined as an “intangible.” Leaders are the ones who rise to the top. Teammates and fans are drawn to them. Members of the media, coaches and scouts all attempt to capture this mystic quality as “it.”

“It” is one of the broadest terms in the English language, but from a leadership standpoint, “it” can be found in John and Diane Carbray.


Diane is Kansas born and raised. She played volleyball, basketball and softball. After completing her undergraduate coursework at Benedictine College in her home state, she later earned her Master’s degree in Sports Administration at Ohio University.

John’s life has been devoted to sporting events and entertainment. His first experience in the business of sports came in the form of professional baseball. He first served as the Northwest League President from 1969-71 before venturing into the Pacific Coast League for the first time in his career with the Eugene Emeralds and Sacramento Solons. He earned the honor of Sporting News Triple-A Executive of the Year in 1974.

The game of soccer brought the two together as the John and Diane first met when both were working with the San Jose Earthquakes, then of the North American Soccer League. In 1983, the future husband and wife founded Projects West Entertainment, a company that would put on more than 400 concerts over 20 years at athletic events.

From Jimmy Buffett to The Beach Boys, The Temptations to Miami Sound Machine, the Carbrays put on shows with a stable of self-owned portable stages. Baseball became one of the easiest settings for an action-packed event from beginning to end.

“Sometimes people would show up in the sixth inning, catch the end of the ballgame and use the 20 minutes between the end of the game and the start of the concert to visit the concession stands, go the bathroom; whatever they needed to do so they see the best of both shows.”

But navigating the country, putting on hundreds of concerts, can show one the corners of the nation that might have not been known prior to the journey.

“Bob Freitas [a Minor League Baseball executive] introduced us to Fresno,” said Diane. “The Fresno Giants/Suns moved to Salinas [after 1988], and Bob called us to see if anyone wanted to buy the wooden bleachers from Euless Park [the Fresno Giants’ former stadium]. The Rose Bowl Parade ended up purchasing the bleachers, but we quickly learned more about Fresno.

“It was a business-decision to bring professional baseball to Fresno. There are five Major League teams in California. From a partnership standpoint, [the MLB teams] would have a partner. This market…not having a pro team, was ripe.”

It was 1991, and the Carbrays began to set in motion their dream of bringing a team to Fresno.


Leaders without followers are lonely folks. The “it” they possess becomes a wasted quality. Leaders must have the vision, the dream, the persistence to institute change, but no aspiration is attainable without a dose of reality.

Followers institute this reality. They empower leaders to continue on and realize the vision. Without the followers, leaders quickly realize others do not share their goal.

For the Carbrays, the followers became the Fresno community. The Central Valley motivated them to change the landscape of baseball in a land of agriculture. Pro ball may have left, but they brought it back.

“There was a will here,” said Diane. “The community lifted us up, and we were the leaders. We got so far into it, we couldn’t quit.”

“It was a grassroots effort,” said John. “We kept selling the dream. People of Fresno kept us motivated. As soon as we got down, someone would come through the door.”

Seven years worth of motivation from the community was needed before the Carbrays introduced the Grizzlies to Fresno. People such as William Connolly, Jack Emerian, Dave Cates and Tim Cullen helped make up the ownership partners, the Fresno Diamond Group. Residents of the area bought 3,000 season tickets for a team that didn’t yet exist. Each person not only became an investor financially into John and Diane’s vision, but invested their time and efforts to help make the vision a reality.

“We didn’t use their money until the stadium was built. It was a huge trust factor,” said Diane. “Numbers told them it was a good idea.”

The group, led by John and Diane, eventually purchased a Triple-A team in 1996. With the Tucson Toros franchise in hand, the dominoes for a professional baseball team in Fresno began to fall.

A few years later, after getting commitment from more powerful figures in town, the Carbrays were able to fulfill their entire vision: pro baseball in downtown Fresno. Now, Chukchansi Park is considered one of the finest ballparks in Minor League Baseball, even 11 years after it was completed.

The 2012 season will be the Grizzlies’ 15th anniversary and 11th in downtown. The Carbrays always knew a Triple-A team is what Fresno would want.

“It is a bonding experience for everyone with the diversity of people who are going there. It is a melting pot with a common community experience in front. That is why we built it.”


The Carbrays sold the dream, took the community through a long-winding journey, and delivered the prize to the believers by bringing Fresno the second-highest level of professional baseball in North America to its downtown.

The Al Radka Award was created by the Carbrays in 2003 and meant to celebrate individuals who made a contribution to the community through the game of baseball. They then awarded it to Bill Thompson, but it is now time for the award to come to its original starting point.

“Humbled and honored,” said Diane after learning her and her husband would be recipients of the achievement. “It’s been 15 years since we bought the team, and for it to come full-circle feels great.”

Leaders are visionaries, opportunists, harmonious, persistent, to name a few qualities. As with the Carbrays, whose leadership is being honored at the Hot Stove Gala on January 28th, their qualities can be summed up simply by saying they have “it.”

Grizzlies Alumni Report: Sergio Romo

Who: Sergio Romo
When He Was a Grizzly: Sergio Romo made three appearances for the Grizzlies in the late summer of 2008. He made three more appearances in a short one week stint with the Grizzlies in 2009.


Fresno Highlights:
     In Sergio’s six games as a Grizzly, he pitched nine innings from the bullpen and allowed no earned runs.
     Sergio struck out 10 batters while allowing only two free passes.
     Sergio made his triumphant return to Fresno with the World Champions Trophy in February 2011 as a special guest speaker for the Hot Stove Gala.
Where He Went From There: After making his Major League debut for the San Francisco Giants on June 26th, 2008, Sergio appeared in Fresno before being returned to the Major Leagues on August 16th. In his debut against the Cleveland Indians, Sergio entered the game in relief and struck out two batters in one inning pitched on the road. The following season, Sergio recorded his first Major League save on July 7th at AT&T Park in San Francisco against the Florida Marlins, striking out the final two batters to seal a 3-0 victory for the Giants.
Where He is Now: In 2010, Sergio mostly played the role of setup man for closer Brian Wilson. It was his biggest year as a Major Leaguer so far, as he recorded a 5-3 record with a 2.18 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. Sergio struggled in the National League Division Series, giving up three runs in 0.2 innings pitched, perhaps contributing to the “torture” of watching Giants baseball. However, Sergio was able to rebound in the National League Championship Series and World Series, where he tossed three scoreless innings, helping the Giants in their championship quest.
Career Highlights:
     In his short career, Sergio has a 13-6 record with a 2.63 ERA
     Sergio contributed to one of the most exciting home wins in Giants history when he setup Brian Wilson for the save against the Padres in the final regular season game to clinch the division. He sat down both batters that he faced, striking out one of them.
     In 2010, Sergio had a 1.47 ERA in eighth innings, solidifying his role as the setup man for the Giants.

Planes, Trophies and Automobiles

By: Noah

John Lennon
once said “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
It’s a good idea to keep that quotation handy when you live in a world that
constantly changes on the fly, as those of us who work in baseball certainly
do. One has to keep life in perspective in the wake of impending rainouts,
back-to-back extra inning games, or the sudden realization that one of the
guests of honor at your 50th anniversary charity dinner is snowed in
at an airport
in a state halfway across the country where it almost never

That’s the
position in which we found ourselves last Thursday, fighting the ever more firm
reality that we would be without Will Clark, The Thrill, the man who we had
worked for over a year to secure, for the Hot Stove Gala. It was about 10:30 in
the morning, or about seven 

Thumbnail image for romo_hot_stove.jpg

hours before the doors were to open to the public
when we first found out. To quote the poet Robert Burns, “The best laid plans
of mice and men, oft go awry”.

through some expert maneuvering and generosity from those involved with our
parent club up north, we were privileged to host two very entertaining substitutes
in Giants pitcher and former Grizzly Sergio Romo as well as longtime Giants
player and current front office member Jim Davenport. Coupled with Matt
, Mark Gardner and Steve Decker, our guests were still treated to a
panel of world class players and personalities.

Of course,
there was also the Trophy. The real star of the show, the “big ticket” if you
will, may well have been the inanimate object sitting by itself on a black
tablecloth at the far end of the entry hall. Surrounded by more security than a
pop star, the golden circle of flags was a perfect centerpiece for this golden
anniversary event, and its presence lent a resplendent tone to the evening, one
that surely would not have existed without it.

meanwhile, made one of his biggest relief appearances to date. Pulled off a
commercial he was shooting in San Francisco that morning, he was whisked into
the backseat of the World Champions Trophy Truck and rushed to Fresno with
enough time to be debriefed about the event and grab a Starbucks before the
doors opened. His laid back and 


easy-going personality helped him steal the
show, as he fielded question after question about his beard and his
relationship with off-color closer Brian Wilson, all with far more polish than
his 27 years would suggest.

Joining Romo
as a last-minute replacement was the 13-year Major League veteran, Davenport. He drove down from the Bay Area
on almost no notice as well, bringing his son with him. The Siluria, Alabama
native kept the mood light and jovial, charming the crowd by recounting stories
and cracking jokes about Romo’s beard in his thick-as-taffy southern drawl.

certainly did his part, calling the airline from the tarmac in Dallas, trying
to switch his flight and find a way to Fresno. When he had exhausted every
possible option, he shot an apology video on his cell phone and emailed it to
us. He also agreed– when we finally got a hold of him again just before the
dinner began– to return to Fresno for a private reception for all of those who
missed him at Hot Stove. It was a classy thing for him to do, and we can’t wait
to bring him back to where he began his professional career later this summer.

Romo and Williams both stayed to fulfill every last autograph and photo
request. In our world, where we are too often bombarded with stories of the
arrogance of some professional athletes, it was a welcome and truly touching
sight to see each and every one of our fans go home happy, in the wake of what
could have been a disastrous day. Thanks again to all our guests and the Giants
for making this a Hot Stove to remember.

Photos by Don Davis: Sergio Romo (top) and Jim Davenport entertain a crowd of nearly 1,000 guests at last week’s Hot Stove Gala. Will Clark movie below.


2011 Al Radka Award Winner Len Bourdet

By: Noah

As you may
know, our 50th Anniversary Hot Stove Gala takes place tomorrow night
at the Fresno Convention Center. The venue will be stuffed to the gills with
nearly 1,000 guests, enjoying the company of Giants legends Will Clark and Matt
and basking in the golden glow of the World Champions Trophy, which
will be on display.

While all of
that is wonderful, one of the most rewarding parts about the event is the
opportunity to honor a member of our community with the Al Radka Award. The
award is designed for a member of the Valley community who has made a
difference through the game of baseball. This year, we will be honoring Malcolm
“Len” Bourdet, a very deserving recipient.


Bourdet was
a two-sport star in baseball and basketball at Fresno State before going off to
fight in the Pacific in World War II. When he returned, he played minor league
ball for several years in the Cubs organization, including stints in Stockton
and Visalia
. But he is best known for the days after his playing career, when
he decided to go into coaching.

A disciple
of the legendary Pete Beiden when he played at Fresno State, Bourdet won 722
games, 15 conference titles and four state championships over his 31-year
coaching tenure as the skipper for the Fresno City College Rams. When you
really think about them, those are some truly staggering numbers. That is an
average of more than 24 wins per season, and a conference championship every
other year.

In today’s
sports world they name buildings and fields after you or build statues of you for that
kind of dominant success. But Bourdet is as humble as could be, and was honored
when told about the award. You can learn more about Len as he talks to Hot Stove
Master of Ceremonies Jason Oliveira tonight on ABC 30 Action News at 11pm.

(Photo: Bourdet from his time at Fresno State)

My First Thrill

By: Noah Frank


I moved to
California when I was three years old, the son of a single mother who was
raised a San Francisco Giants fan in the Bay Area. When I was four, my mom took me to my
first baseball game, a sunny, warm, matinee affair between the Montreal Expos and
the Giants at Candlestick. It was late May of 1987, and we were
headed to this specific game because– as a precocious four year-old– I had
decided my favorite player was Expos outfielder
Hubie Brooks. I had even
written to Brooks, and he had responded with a hand-written letter of his own
and an autographed photo to boot.

So there we
were at the ‘Stick, mother with son in tow, mom wearing the home 

expos hat.jpgorange and
black while her child, blissfully oblivious, sported the classic red, white and
blue Montreal hat.

I seem to
recall that we sat in the upper deck, though the only thing I can be sure of is
that we were on the first base side. When the starting lineups were announced,
I realized, to my dismay, that Brooks was not playing that day. No matter,
though, I would simply root on the Expos, since they were still Brooks’ team,
after all.

The Giants
scored first, something I remember only now when I look back at the box score.
Expos starter Floyd Youmans balked home a runner in the top of the first, which
I suppose explains why my normally meticulous memory of the event is fuzzy. Try
to explain a balk to a preschooler in the first inning of his first baseball

The Expos
struck back for three runs in the top of the fourth, something I remember very
well. The Giants’ hurler, now broadcaster,
Mike Krukow allowed a two-run single
to Tim Wallach, who scored himself on an RBI-single 

candlestick_enclosed.jpglater in the inning. I was
in ecstasy, my beloved ‘Spos on top, 3-1. That’s when I was introduced to the
man who would shape my very perception of the game.

In the
bottom of the frame, with one out and nobody on, up stepped
Will Clark. With
one mighty swing, he took Youmans deep to cut the lead to one. It was the first
time I’d ever seen a home run, ever considered the thought of it really. This man had hit the
ball so hard that it had left the playing field entirely, leaving me shaken and
bewildered. The fans around me cheered, while I worried what would become of my
Expos, without Hubie Brooks to save them. Even with the score still 3-2
Montreal, I was upset.

Neither team
scored in the fifth, but then, leading off the bottom of the sixth, there was
that man again. Will Clark. The cheer of the crowd was louder this time,
reminding all– especially me– of what he had done the last time he batted. And
just then, sure enough, he did it again, sending another Youman pitch rocketing
past us through the California sunshine, into the unused seats over the outfield

exploded in joy, and I lost it. It was all too much for a poor little Expos fan
to take. Normally a quiet and well-mannered child (according to my mom’s
accounts of my youth), I threw myself on the concrete beneath our seats,
crying and wailing away as Clark circled the bases. How cruel was this, to 

my team take the lead only to watch this Giant of a man rip it away from me?
What had I done to deserve this? I hated this game, and all I wanted was to

My mother
grabbed me off the ground, sat me in my seat, and spoke words that I will never
forget. Remember, this was still years before
A League of Their Own and the famous Tom Hanks quote that “there’s
no crying in baseball”. My mother looked me in the eye and threatened that if I
did not stop crying right then, right there, that she would never take me to
another baseball game again. I pulled it
together, thankfully, and made it through the end of not only that game, but
hundreds if not thousands since. Looking back at the box score, I chuckled upon
discovering that the Expos had actually rallied against Krukow for three in the
eighth inning, going on to win by a count of 6-4. Clearly that memory had been
superceded by the other, of the Giant man with the left-handed swing that sent
baseballs screaming, lost, into the recesses of the concrete bowl.

My Hubie
Brooks infatuation was gone by the late ’80s, but I would never forget Will
Clark. I would see him again over the years,
single-handedly crushing the Cubs
in 1989 on my television set to lead San Francisco to the World Series. Then, most
notably, watching Game 1 of the Series in Oakland in person, where he had two of
the Giants’ five hits, including the only double off Dave Stewart in a 5-0 defeat. But
I will always remember him for that first thrill, the first time I’d ever seen
a man transform the landscape of the game, of an entire generation of San
Francisco baseball fans.

Will Clark will be a special guest at the 50th
Hot Stove Gala
taking place Thursday, February 3rd at
the Fresno Convention Center.

“Really?” I
asked him, skeptically. He smiled, shrugging his shoulders.

Having grown
up in California and knowing only the slogan of the Anaheim branch of the
Disney Empire as “The Happiest Place on Earth”, this was a new one to me. But I
thought about the deeper meaning it might hold for those in baseball. See, the
Winter Meetings rotate locations around the country, stopping every five years
or so in Orlando. Because of the setup of the hotel, everyone working in Major League and Minor League Baseball as well as those looking for a job were all under the
same roof. As such, certainly dreams came true for some last week.

They did for
Jason Werth, who landed a larger-than-expected contract from the Washington
Nationals. They must have for Carl Crawford, who will spend his next seven
as a highly-paid outfielder for the always competitive Boston Red Sox.
But what of the other 


players, teams, general managers and, of course, job

For those
who don’t know, the other side of the Winter Meetings is a massive cattle call
of a Job Fair that draws hundreds upon hundreds of young folks looking to break
into the business of baseball. Many of us who work in the game were ourselves
in that position just a few years prior. They mingle with the rest of us for
the week, soaking in everything that the offseason baseball event of the year
has to offer.

Here is a
basic breakdown of my crazy, wonderful, stressful week that was the Baseball
Winter Meetings.



After a few
hours of socializing, my old intern (who kindly let me crash with him for a few
nights near the hotel) showed up and we retreated back to try to catch some
sleep, but not before a nice meal of Orlando’s finest delivery pizza and hot
wings. It’s always nice to start a busy week with a night of massive


Monday is
where the “meeting” half of the Winter Meetings begins in earnest, with the Bob
Freitas Business Seminar in the morning and a series of roundtable discussions
about the various departments of a baseball organization in the afternoon. In
the middle is the annual awards lunch, where the Giants took home Organization
of the Year honors. Ho hum.

the afternoon session, and a quick stop in on the PCL travel meeting, every
Giants minor league affiliate met with the big league club for an hour, then
headed upstairs for our private, organizational dinner. Four different tables
of food, including fresh sushi, and an open bar are a nice way to say thank you
for a season of hard work that ended with the Commissioner’s Trophy headed to
San Francisco. I was even lucky enough to sit at the same table with Giants
manager Bruce Bochy and former manager Felipe Alou (sorry, no photo for that–
you’ll just have to take my word for it).

dinner, as it was every night, I headed back down to the lobby, this time with
the always entertaining staff from the Richmond Flying Squirrels, our Double-A


I grabbed
lunch with a couple of the minor league broadcasters I met on the trip, one of
whom expressed his anticipation for Wednesday, when, as he put it, “the bright
eyes and bushy tails of Monday turn into the boulevard of broken dreams” at the
Job Fair. While this characterization may be a bit melodramatic, the difference
in mood is palpable. Once bustling hallways abuzz with the excited gasps at the
myriad possibilities of exciting future career paths, is replaced by the
treacherous silence of hundreds of young people waiting anxiously for their
phones to ring.


My favorite
highlight involved one of the baseball entertainers looking to get booked for
promotional days around the country. He would stand perfectly still in front of
one of the apparel stands, in full uniform with a catcher’s mask on, waiting for
passersby. When someone would casually approach too closely, he would make a
sudden move towards them, usually scaring their socks off. I had the pleasure
of watching Omaha Storm Chasers broadcaster Mark Nasser get duped by a colleague into a false
sense of security, then get frightened so badly he nearly fell over on the
Trade Show floor. Good times.

night brought the Gala, the chance for everyone to come together one last time
before we all headed home to our respective corners of the country. After meeting
up with some friends from the Tacoma Rainiers, we ended up departing to the
karaoke bar in the 


hotel and closing the place down. The last thing I remember from
the night was heading to the 24-hour cafeteria for pizza at 3am, then waking up
to the sound of my alarm…


My main
reason for going to the Draft was to see if our southpaw reliever Joe Paterson
would survive the process. Any player not on his team’s 40-man roster with a
certain amount of service time is eligible to be selected, and Paterson fell
into that category. There was a difference of opinion amongst the baseball
operations folks at the Giants organizational dinner a couple nights prior
about whether or not he would be selected, but I had a bad feeling.

enough, Paterson was snatched away by the division-rival Diamondbacks, going
third overall
in the Major League portion of the Draft. I was really looking
forward to having him back in Fresno this year, and we still may see him, as
Arizona must keep him on their Major League roster or else he will be returned
to the Giants, per the rules of the draft.

As the
masses retreated from the draft back to the lobby, gone were the bars that had
been set up there for the week, as well as the crowds that accompanied them. A
mass exodus was checking out and heading for the cab lines to the airport. That
left me the chance to talk with the godfather of baseball, Peter Gammons of
ESPN, who was just wrapping things up at that point, no longer running from
executive to executive, looking to break the next piece of hot stove news. If
you ever get the chance to speak to Gammons, make sure you take advantage. I’ve
been lucky enough to do so twice, and it’s always worth the time.

All in all,
it was quite a week. I learned a lot, met a ton of people from all around
baseball, and hopefully will be able to use all of that to help get ready for
April 7th, 2011. After all, there are just 61 days until pitchers
and catchers report to Spring Training.

(Photos: Top- The bustle of the Job Fair; Middle- ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, one of the many faces of the Winter Meetings; Bottom- The Rule 5 Draft. I know it’s a bit fuzzy, but it is an accurate reflection of how it looked through my eyes. All photos courtesy of my best friend and worst enemy, my iPhone)