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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.