Opening Day for the Grizzlies’ 2012 season is 35 days away (43 until the home opener on April 13th). While the next month will dictate how the Grizzlies roster shakes out, it is time to revisit the 2011 Opening Day roster. Some familiar faces may return to Fresno this season, but several players have moved on to other organizations. Check out the list below to see where they have landed.
RHP Josh Banks – signed with the Baltimore Orioles. Banks was without a job until February 28th when he signed with the Orioles on a Minor League contract. The right-hander is local to the Baltimore area as he is from Severna Park, Maryland.
RHP Casey Daigle – unsigned. Daigle pitched in 36 games with the Grizzlies last season. He did not pitch in a game after July 10th, however, as he ended the season on the disabled list.
RHP Steve Edlefsen – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. The right-hander made his Major League debut in 2011, pitching in 13 games with the Giants. The 26-year-old, who has pitched in Fresno for parts of the last three seasons, may once again start the year in Fresno this season, but he may also see significant time with the Giants.
LHP Alex Hinshaw – signed with the San Diego Padres. The left-hander was released this past offseason, before he was signed by San Diego. The 29-year-old attended San Diego State University, so the transition to America’s Finest City should be an easy one if he pitches for the parent club. Hinshaw was invited to the Padres’ Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
RHP Andrew Kown – re-signed with the Giants; invited to San Francisco’s Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Kown is a candidate to once again pitch for the Grizzlies, depending on how he performs in Spring Training and what types of opportunities open up at the big league level.
RHP Marc Kroon – retired
RHP Shane Loux – re-signed with the Giants; invited to San Francisco’s Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Similar to Kown, Loux will more than likely start the season in Fresno if he sticks with the Giants organization.
RHP Doug Mathis – signed by the Boston Red Sox. Mathis appeared in 13 games with the Grizzlies in 2011 before joining the Oakland A’s organization midway through the year. The University of Missouri product is in Boston’s big league camp this spring. Former Giants farmhand Tony Pena Jr. is also with Mathis in Boston’s Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
RHP David Mixon – retired midseason last year. After appearing in seven games with the Grizzlies, the right-hander was sent to Double-A Richmond before joining High-A San Jose. In July, Mixon decided to step away from the game and step into a post-baseball career.
RHP Henry Sosa – traded to the Houston Astros midseason last year. Sosa is on the Astros’ 40-man roster and figures to contend for a spot in Houston’s pitching staff at some point this season. The Astros are a young team, and Sosa has only made 10 Major League starts in his career, all of which occurred last season.
RHP Ryan Vogelsong – re-signed with the Giants on a two-year deal. In case you didn’t hear, the right-hander had a good season last year.
LHP Matt Yourkin – re-signed with the Giants; invited to San Francisco’s Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Once again, Yourkin is in the same boat as Kown and Loux in terms of where he starts this season. If Yourkin pitches for the Grizzlies in 2012, it will be his third-straight season in Fresno.
C Chris Stewart – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Stewart is competing with Eli Whiteside for the backup catcher role with the Giants.
C Jackson Williams – still within the Giants organization. Williams is attending big league Spring Training camp for the fifth straight season as a non-roster invitee.
INF Brock Bond – still within the Giants organization. Bond missed most of the 2011 season with an injury. He will be looking to bounce back in 2012, possibly putting up numbers similar to 2010, when he was named a Pacific Coast League All-Star.
INF Emmanuel Burriss – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Burriss is competing for a role with the Giants full-time, either as a starter or as a utility player off the bench.
INF Conor Gillaspie – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Gillaspie appeared in 15 games with the Giants last season as a September call-up. He first appeared with the Giants in a limited role during his first professional season in 2008, all of which was part of his contract. Gillaspie will more than likely start the year in Fresno with his play and opportunities opening up at the Major League level determining where he finishes the year.
INF Edgar Gonzalez – signed by the Chicago Cubs. Gonzalez was one of the mainstays in the Grizzlies lineup in a year filled with plenty of roster turnover. He signed with the Cubs organization entering the 2012 season and is participating in the Cubs’ big league Spring Training camp as a non-roster invitee. Plenty of competition exists for Gonzalez in the Cubs’ camp, but Grizzlies fans might have the opportunity to watch him play again in May when the Iowa Cubs pay a visit to Fresno. All of this, of course, depends on Gonzalez staying with the Cubs organization if he does not make the big league club breaking Spring Training.
INF Brett Pill – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Pill is competing for a spot on the Giants 25-man roster breaking Spring Training camp. After primarily playing first base for his first five professional seasons, Pill gained some experience at second base with the Grizzlies in 2011. In addition to playing a handful of games at third in the minors, as well as taking some fly balls as an outfielder in Spring Training, Pill is adding versatility to help him make the Giants’ Opening Day roster.
INF Ryan Rohlinger – signed a Minor League contract with the Cleveland Indians. Rohlinger was traded to the Colorado Rockies in early June of last season, where he played in 70 games with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox to end the year. The 28-year-old will attend the Indians’ Minor League camp after his deal with Cleveland did not include an invitation to the big league Spring Training.
OF Terry Evans – unsigned. Evans opened the 2011 campaign with the Giants organization, appearing in 39 games with the Grizzlies. He opted out of his contract at the end of May, freeing him up to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Georgia native played in 48 games with the Double-A Reading Phillies to close out the 2011 season.
OF Darren Ford – signed with the Seattle Mariners. The speedy outfielder was let go by the Giants this past offseason in a reshuffling of the 40-man roster. Ford battled injuries for most of the 2011 season, spending time at four different levels in the San Francisco organization. Ford received an invitation to the Mariners’ Major League Spring Training, but with nine outfielders already on the 40-man roster, Ford will have plenty of opportunity to compete for a spot with Mariners. Worse comes to worse, Ford will land with the Tacoma Rainiers. The Grizzlies play the Rainiers to open Fresno’s 2012 home schedule.
OF Tyler Graham – on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Graham led the PCL in steals in 2011, a year after he batted .343 over 109 games with the Grizzlies in 2010. The Giants added Graham to their 40-man roster this past offseason, meaning Graham could make his Major League debut in 2012 if an outfield spot opens up in San Francisco or, at the very least, as a September call-up.
OF Thomas Neal – traded to the Cleveland Indians midway through last season. Neal has secured a 40-man roster spot with the Indians entering Spring Training, but he is facing plenty of competition, including from former Grizzlies and Giants outfielder Fred Lewis.
On Sunday, February 19th, Marc Kroon made it official: he is retiring from professional baseball.
The right-handed pitcher played in 21 seasons after being drafted by the New York Mets in the second round of the 1991 First-Year Player Draft. In addition to the Mets, Kroon pitched in seven other organizations in the United States, including the San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers, Anaheim Angels, Colorado Rockies, and, of course, the San Francisco Giants.
In 2011, Kroon notched 20 saves for the Grizzlies, which is third best in a single season for a Fresno pitcher in team history. The 20 saves, however, were only a small part of Kroon’s career.
Between 2005 and 2010, the Bronx, New York native played in the Nippon Pro Baseball league in Japan. He spent the first three seasons with the Yokohama BayStars and the final three seasons with the Yomiuri Giants, registering 177 saves in Japan. For his entire career, in the U.S. and in Japan, Kroon had 266 saves.
Kroon missed most of the 2000 season and all of the 2001 and 2002 seasons with a right elbow injury. He pitched in 26 Major League games in his career compared to 396 in the minors. While the ultimate goal of any ballplayer is to play a long career in the Majors, none of this should take away from a great career for Kroon. He played for the one purpose all fans follow baseball for: the passion for the game.
This is why Kroon resonated with so many people. Fans recognized Kroon’s love for baseball and felt a strong connection with him. Teammates were happy to share a clubhouse with Kroon because none of them doubted his desire to win as a team. With the spotlight on him in the waning moments of many victories, the closer proved to those around him he was the right person for the job night after night.
It is no wonder then that Kroon announced his retirement in true 21st century fashion by going to directly to his fans via Twitter.
Many of his followers (fans and teammates) were happy to send Marc well wishes in his new endeavors, which just reinforces the type of teammate and person Marc was throughout his career.
What’s next for Kroon? According to his Twitter account, “I’m just going to chill with the fam and spend quality time at home.”
For as much time he has spent away from his family over the years, traversing not only the United States but the world for his occupation, Kroon will no doubt take advantage of his new time with his loved ones.
The Fresno Grizzlies wish Marc the best of luck in his post-baseball career.
By: Ellen Ward
In recent months, Shaela Warkentin has become a household name in Fresno, but not by choice. The Bullard High School sophomore was the victim of a severe car accident on March 18th, 2011. Sixteen year old, Shaela and her sister were returning home from a youth group function when a truck rear-ended the Mustang she was driving. The accident left Shaela in critical condition, which resulted in a two month-long hospital stint. She received several surgeries to correct the damage done to her face and skull, but unfortunately Shaela lost sight in both of her eyes.
Local businesses partnered with the community to help the Warkentin family with the unexpected medical bills. The Fresno Grizzlies caught wind of this opportunity and reached out to the family about a night dedicated to Shaela and her recovery.
“I was telling my wife earlier you come sometimes and see things about other people but you never think its going to be about you, in a way its cool, but in a way it is sad,” expressed, Shaela’s father, Ken Warkentin.
With support from the community and the hands of skilled doctors, Shaela defeated the odds and was released from the hospital on May 10th, 2011, just two months after the accident that threatened her life. She still faces a long road to recovery, but she continues to smile through it all.
“We’ve come to games here before, but this is the first one she can’t see,” said Ken Warkentin.
Shaela threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Monday, May 23rd, while her older sister Kylee sang the national anthem. Not only was the Warkentin family a part of the pre-game action, but a portion of the ticket sales went straight to Shaela’s account to alleviate medical expenses. The park sparkled with purple shirts that Shaela’s family and friends made to support her in the wake of the tragedy.
“It is an incredible honor that the park would do this for us”, said, Ken Warkentin, in response to the Grizzlies opening their arms to his family.
As Shaela took the field, the crowd began to shout words of encouragement to the young, now blind teen. She walked to the mound with her arm wrapped around her father’s, firmly clinching his wrist. She grasped the baseball with both hands, turning back at her father who had let go of her hand. Shaela threw the baseball to Fresno Grizzlies closer, Marc Kroon, and immediately the crowd erupted into cheers. The ball bounced right before home plate, which is a remarkable feat considering Shaela’s injuries.
“I feel so good, I was expecting a lot of this, so many people have talked to me, and said they are praying for me,” said Shaela after she threw out the first pitch.
The Fresno Grizzlies were honored to host the Warkentin family on Monday night. It was an emotional night at the park for players, coaches, staff and fans. After catching the first pitch, Grizzlies closer Marc Kroon said, “ that almost made me cry” to his teammates as he headed back to the dug out.
The organization will continue helping families in need, and reaching out to fans that have been so loyal to them through the years. Everyone at the Grizzlies wishes Shaela a speedy recovery and hopes to see her at more games in the future.
By: Josh Jackson
There are plenty of obvious factors contributing to the buzz surrounding the Fresno Grizzlies this season. Perhaps one can say that it all started last year. The 2010 campaign was one of the more successful seasons in the recent history of the franchise, and fan favorites Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner were major role players in the Giants’ championship quest. Madison Bumgarner World Champion Bobblehead night drew nearly 10,000 fans to the ballpark this weekend, and the upcoming Buster Posey ROY/World Champion Bobblehead night is sure to draw a huge crowd as well.
Grizzlies and Giants fans alike are now excited to see what is in store for the organization. One of the most talked about players would be top Giants prospect Brandon Belt, who is one of the focal points of the upcoming Showtime series, The Franchise, along with Grizzlies closer Marc Kroon.
However, there are a lot of things the Grizzlies are doing to bring our community together that you may not yet be aware of.
Friday, May 20th, marked the first of two “Pack the Park to Fight Hunger” nights benefiting the Poverello House, presented by CBS 47. Poverello House is a nonprofit organization here in Fresno that has been serving the hungry and homeless since 1973. The residents of the Central Valley showed tremendous support, as over 9,000 people came out to the game. Many fans that showed up brought non-perishable food items in order to help the needy in the Fresno community and received a discount on their ticket for that nights game.
In addition, CBS 47 recently put on a food drive of their own at the station’s studio and helped the Grizzlies spread the word in the community’s effort to fight hunger. Don’t worry if you missed the first night, but make sure you join us for the second and final “Pack the Park to Fight Hunger” night on Friday, July 8th.“Pack the Park to Fight Hunger” is a great cause, but it isn’t the only beneficial event that will be held at the ballpark this weekend. The Grizzlies are teaming up with the Red Cross on Sunday, May 22nd, to increase health awareness. During the game the Red Cross will have informational videos shown about CPR training, pool safety, babysitting precautions, and what to do in the wake of a natural disaster.
As many already know, the Grizzlies make it their responsibility to have a hand in the development of young children throughout the Central Valley. The Hopes and Dreams Foundation will also join the Grizzlies on May 22nd in this mutual effort. The Hopes and Dreams Film Project helps children suffering from life-threatening illnesses, and those of active military and first responders, to find inspiration and joy through the magic of filmmaking. The Hopes and Dreams Project shot their first film, “Build a Better Fastball”, right here at Chukchansi Park this past January. The film will premiere on Wednesday, June 1st at 6:30 pm at the Sierra Vista Mall.
To extend the fun-packed weekend here at Chukchansi Park, the students that met the Wild About Reading challenge were invited to redeem their two free tickets on Sunday, May 22nd. Over 8,000 tickets were given to students that met Parker’s challenge of reading ten books over a five-week period. Wild About Reading is just one of the ways the Grizzlies continue to help in the development of young children in the Central Valley.
Everyone in the Grizzlies family is more than excited about baseball this summer. But the Grizzlies and their fans are even more excited to use the sport as a platform to come together for the purpose of bettering our community. Make sure to keep an eye out for more beneficial events that will coincide with great baseball down at Chukchansi Park this summer.