Tagged: Opening Day

10-For-10: Justin Renge

By: Noah Frank

Ed. Note: The 10-for-10 series is a chance for us at the Grizzlies to celebrate 10 years in Downtown Fresno by thanking 10 of our great fans. This is the first installment in the new series, which we will be running up to (and possibly through) Opening Day. If you know a deserving fan who has helped support Grizzlies baseball that you would like to nominate, simply email us at grizzliesmedia@fresnogrizzlies.com.

Sometime last year I had the idea that it might be fun to do some sort of “Fan of the Month” type feature for Yard Work. We have an awesome collection of loyal season ticket holders here in Fresno, but I wasn’t sure how to properly construct the series for this blog. Then suddenly, a couple weeks ago, opportunity literally came knocking at the door.

Pat Wallach, our Box Office Manager here at the Grizzlies, sent out a staff-wide email about an encounter he had just had with our newest season ticket holder. Pat had gotten a phone call from a mom who said her son, Justin, was interested in buying season tickets. He had arranged for them to come down to the ballpark and take a look at seats. All in all, it was a fairly normal interaction, so far as Pat could tell.

“I didn’t really think twice about it,” reflected Pat. “I didn’t ask any questions about how old he was or anything.”

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See, Justin is just 17, a senior at Fowler High School. He has been a Grizzlies fan since Chukchansi Park opened back in 2002, but really stepped up his fandom last year, when he attended somewhere between 50-60 of the Grizzlies’ 72 home games. He figured that this year he might as well just buy a full season ticket so he could also enjoy all the perks that come with being one of our season ticket holders. So Pat showed him around the ballpark.

“He took me out and showed me some of the seats and we talked about where I would possibly be,” Justin explained.

Where he would have been was in the Terrace View seats, down the right field line. While every seat is close to field at Chukchansi Park, most season ticket holders sit a little nearer to home plate. Of course Justin would have wanted to sit closer, but the Terrace View seats were all that he could afford.

See, this was not some birthday gift from his family. Justin was there to spend his own money, to find his own seat. As Pat found out that day, Justin had saved all of his money since the end of the 2010 season and added what he received for the holidays to come up with enough for his ticket package. Pat was blown away by Justin’s knowledge of the team and commitment to joining the season ticket holder ranks.

“He knows more about the Grizzlies and the Giants than me, I think” Pat said, laughing. “He’s one of the biggest Grizzlies fans I’ve met in my entire life.”

Looking at the seat that Justin could afford– but that would leave him sitting far away from the bulk of our season ticket holders– Pat made an executive decision.

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“I remember thinking ‘I don’t know if I should do this, or if I even have the power to do this, but I’m going to move you to Section 106 and get you on the Field Level.'”

That meant the chance to officially join the group of the most tried and true Grizzlies fans. It wasn’t a hard decision for Justin.

“He actually presented me with the opportunity,” Justin said with a smile. “And I accepted.”

It’s one of those moments that exists only in the world of sports, and even then doesn’t come around often enough.

“Something like this has never happened,” said Pat, who has been with the Grizzlies for four seasons. “It’s the coolest sale that I’ve ever made. It’s the best feeling, just knowing that there are people out there who love baseball that much.”

Looking forward to 2011, Justin says he’s most excited about the prospects that are coming through Fresno this year.

“Hopefully it will be as good as last year when we had Bumgarner and Posey. We’ll see what happens.”

Whatever happens,
Justin will be there to see every game, from the comfort of his own, personal
seat.

(Photos of Justin Renge by Pat Wallach)

Kindling The Hot Stove

By: Cody Turner

For many baseball fans, the excitement of the baseball
season doesn’t end after the World Series; it begins again. Following the
anticipation of the postseason awards, fans eagerly await the fate of some of
the key players from their organization, as well as what newcomers might become
significant contributors next spring. 

At the minor league level, while many spectators suspect a
vacant ghost town for a stadium, front office staffs across the country have
begun the diligent preparation for the six-month marathon of a season that lies
ahead. Similarly to fans, many members of the Minor League Baseball family
enthusiastically await offseason transactions, and how those moves affect which
exciting young talents they’ll get to feature come Opening Day.

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The most examined teams during the winter are often those
coming off postseason runs. The expectations of a defending champ are particularly
high, and the value of available top performers from such an organization is
increased. It’s always interesting to see how the chemistry of a championship
caliber team may be altered, especially a clubhouse that meshed as well as the
2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.

In their first month since their World Series victory, a lot
has happened in the world of baseball. The activities thus far have had an
affect on multiple levels. What most don’t realize is how the re-signing of a
free agent, or loss of another, can change not just the outlook for a league or
a division, but also an entire organization from the top down.  While the elite of baseball’s top
prospects participated in the Arizona Fall League and the Giants focused on
some of their higher priority free agents in November, the fortune of the
Fresno Grizzlies’ 2011 Opening Day roster awaits.

Each time the Scottsdale Scorpions took the field in
Arizona, and every negotiation made in San Francisco shifted which developing
players Fresno fans were likely to see come April. With the young talents of
Brandon Belt, Charlie Culberson, and Conor Gillaspie making their cases for a
shot at the next level with an exceptional display of development in the AFL,
the eventual home of Giants free agents will play a crucial part where these
prospects land.  

By the end of Belt’s steady rise through the system in 2010–
culminating in the Scorpions’ AFL Championship— talks of the lefty starting the
upcoming season in San Francisco
began to surface. The small glimpse of the heaving-hitting
first baseman in Downtown Fresno at the tail end of last season left fans eager
to see the rising star lead the Grizzlies into 2011. Little did we know that
despite a championship lineup in San Francisco, Belt might end up with the
Giants without stepping foot in Chukchansi Park again.

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The immediate future of the Giants’ fifth-round selection of
the 2009 First-Year Player Draft was highly dependent on whether San Francisco
would sign Free Agent first baseman Aubrey Huff. Even after the news of the deal
that would keep Huff in orange and black
for two more seasons, the possibility
of Belt being a Giant this spring was not necessarily diminished.

Huff’s experience in the outfield, his willingness to do
whatever it takes
to help the team win, and his desire to be an everyday player
didn’t count out the possibility of Brandon Belt starting the 2011 season in a
Giants uniform. The Huff signing inched Belt closer to an assignment to Fresno,
but it wasn’t until San Francisco’s latest signing of Pat Burrell that made Belt’s
immediate future in a Grizzlies uniform seem more probable than that in a Giants
one. Nevertheless, the winter has just begun. How the next four months play out
will determine where we see Belt come Opening Day.

Similarly to the starting first base job, the rest of the
Giants infield is in question for the spring as well. The immediate decision-making
rested on the free agent status of World Series hero Juan Uribe. With the
sure-handed infielder headed to Southern California after signing with the
division-rival Dodgers
(and the Giants’ concern with the fitness of Pablo
Sandoval
), the opportunity for a young upstart from the minor league system
making an impact appeared as conceivable as ever.

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Whether the Giants looked to a more established player like
Emmanuel Burriss or Ryan Rohlinger to step up, or the fresher faces of a
Gillaspie, Culberson or a lesser-known Brandon Crawford to emerge, infield
opportunities were seemingly wide open. However, shortly after Uribe’s
departure, the Giants acquired veteran shortstop Miguel Tejada, who helped
boost San Diego in the divisional race last year.

While the return of Freddy Sanchez and Mark DeRosa to the
Giants infield, along with the attainment of Tejada and re-signing of backup
infielder Mike Fontenot will help fill some vacancies with some veteran
assurance, there are still some questions to be answered this winter. With the uncertainty of Sandoval and the increased progress and
productivity of Culberson and Gillaspie, each offseason move dramatically
impacts what baseball fans in the Central Valley can expect to see in Fresno.

The outlook for Triple-A baseball in Fresno seems bright
with the likelihood of some impressive young talent making their way though at
some point in 2011. As always though, the length at which they stay may vary.
With the recent immediate success of Rookie of the Year Buster Posey and lefty
hurler Madison Bumgarner, the urgency to see a Brandon Belt as a Giant sooner
rather than later will be astronomical.

(Ryan Rohlinger and Madison Bumgarner Photos: Don Davis; Aubrey Huff Photo: AP)

Board At Work

For those of you who haven’t yet heard the good news, Chukchansi Park is in the midst of a nice little off-season makeover. The old video and matrix boards are being taken apart as you read this, and new video boards will be installed starting next week and be ready (hopefully!) by Opening Day. In addition to the regular board being a nice upgrade from the original model, the matrix board will also have video capability, meaning all kinds of fun new graphics to keep you Grizzlies fans entertained this season.scoreboard.jpg

As you can see, the construction crews are already going full-speed ahead. Thankfully, the weather has cleared up here in the Valley, so they’ve been able to operate under sunny skies for the last week. Word on the street is that there might even be a popular member of the Grizzlies staff (a very furry, orange staff member) who is pitching in to try to help us beat the clock as we count down to Opening Day on Friday, April 16th. After all, if you recall, he was the one who put us in this predicament in the first place.

In the meantime, there is plenty else going on in Grizzlies-land, as we’ve released our full promo schedule including fireworks night, giveaways, theme nights and celebrity guests. We also just announced our weekly promotions, chalked full with some awesome value nights.

Next up I’ll post my interview with Giants broadcaster Jon Miller from Spring Training as he breaks down what to expect on the field from your 2010 Grizzlies.

Welcome!

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Well, hello there. Welcome to Yard Work, the official blog
of the Fresno Grizzlies. WhileFresnoGrizzlies.com
will continue to handle all your daily news and information about the team,
Yard Work will take a look behind the scenes of what it takes to put on an
entire season of minor league baseball. With contributions from front office
staff, players, coaches, interns, the Drag Kings and even fans
themselves, it will provide you with a unique, inside look into the
personalities that make Grizzlies baseball so much fun.


With another award-winning
season
in the books, the organization is looking forward to a great 2010. Our newly
revamped website is up and running, bringing our fans more stories, pictures
and videos than ever before. Plus, this season’s promotional calendar, which is
being rolled out this week, will offer fans an unprecedented level of
involvement in choosing what they want to see at the ballpark this spring and
summer.

On the field, the Grizzlies will welcome new manager Steve Decker for
the upcoming season. Decker will have at his disposal some of the budding stars
of the top-ranked minor league system in the National League, according to Baseball
America
. We’ll know more about just who those players will be in the coming
weeks, as the Giants narrow down their 25-man roster in Spring Training. I’ll
be down in Scottsdale this weekend, talking with players, coaches and Giants
front-office folk and will be writing a couple of entries about the experience.

Remember everyone, Opening Day is just around the corner on Friday,
April 16th. The Grizzlies take on the Portland Beavers at Chukchansi Park
at 7:05pm with Decker and Portland
skipper Terry Kennedy, former catching teammates with the Giants,
matched up against each other as managers for the first time.

More to come this weekend from Arizona!