By: Ryan Guinan
Base stealing has become quite a habit for the 2011 Fresno Grizzlies. The team has eclipsed three stolen base records this season and demonstrated they can put the pressure on the base paths. Led by the PCL’s leading base stealer Tyler Graham, this group of speedsters has not hesitated to gamble an extra 90 feet if it could mean the difference in a game.
Tyler Graham has become known for lightning quick plays on the bases. This year, he has surpassed the old franchise mark for stolen bags in a season (42) set by Calvin Murray in 1999. Graham accomplished the feat in a winning effort on July 9th to set up a walk-off hit by Justin Christian. Graham stole second, third and eventually scored the winning run. Its plays like this that can change the course of a close game and perhaps a season if the situation presents itself.
Graham’s aggressive base running has proven successful for him throughout his entire career. Heading into an eight game road trip against Iowa and Omaha, Graham was successful in 51 of his 61 attempts to swipe an extra bag. Graham currently leads the PCL in steals and has done so by leaving the rest of the pack in the dust. He holds a 13 base cushion to Esteban German of the Round Rock Express who ranks second in the league. He constantly has pushed the limit to get on base and look for an extra 90 feet that could be the difference maker.
Tyler has led this Grizzlies team to a record of their own, the franchise’s single season mark for most stolen bases by a team. They beat out the 1999 Grizzlies who had 145 thefts that season. On July 23rd, in a game against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Justin Christian stole second base to make it 146 on the year for the 2011 Grizzlies. The benchmark seemed destined to be broken after last year’s club totaled 143 stolen bases, just two shy of the old franchise record. On their way to the record, the team also recorded 10 stolen bags on April 10th against Las Vegas. This number was good enough for another Grizzlies record, most stolen bases in a game. The group was filled with the potential to overcome the team record with guys like Graham, Darren Ford, Emmanuel Burriss, and Christian. Grizzlies’ fans would expect nothing else while under the management of Steve Decker. He has been known to harass opposing pitchers with the constant threat of a base stealer. His ball club in San Jose totaled 205 bags swiped in 2008 and his Grizzlies last year compiled 143. Stealing bases is no surprise for a Decker team, but much more of an expectation.
This team has made the franchise record more of a spectacle to see as they have run wild on the bases. With the Giants ranking in the bottom of the league in run production, aggressive base running could be their answer to more runs. Fans can recall a Grizzlies September call-up last year that led to a big win against Colorado on September 1st.
In a 1-1 deadlock, Darren Ford was put into action, pinch-running for Mike Fontenot. He would go on to flash his speed that day for the go-ahead run. He didn’t hesitate one bit in his first Major League appearance. He advanced to second base on a wild pitch and than made his way home on a throwing error to third for the game-winning score, which eventually proved to be just as important as any other run that season. The Giants had to use all 162 games in order to clinch the division and a spot in the post-season, making Ford’s speed more valuable than ever for the club. The Giant’s base running threats are limited this year and their run production ranks amongst the bottom half of the league. Aggressive base running could prove to be their only hope, meaning one of the Grizzlies could be called up solely for speed purposes as Ford was last year.
The Giants are attempting to repeat their World Series performance of last year while fending off surging Arizona. San Francisco has been thriving off of one-run ballgames. If this continues to be the case, they may need to call up another speedster from Fresno. Although the Giants main need is hitting, they may look to have one man on the bench who can change the game in a foot race between him and the catcher’s arm for an extra 90 feet. If this is the case, Fresno is ready to go with numerous guys who can add their speed to a World Champion. The Grizzlies will continue to extend their records for the rest of the season and hopefully, one of them can make it up for a September call up to help make another run to the World Series.
By: Josh Jackson
Early Monday morning, rumors had surfaced in the local Fresno media that a trade had been approved that would send Grizzlies mascot, Parker, to another team in the PCL. The trade deadline had already come and gone on July 31st at 4:00 p.m. ET, but a few media entities were speculating that a deal had been reached prior to the deadline.
Many were skeptical of these rumors at first. After all, Parker is known across Minor League Baseball as the hardest working bear in all of the Central Valley. It was hard for people to grasp the concept of the Grizzlies letting go of one of their most valuable assets. In fact, after initial trade rumors had been reported and word spread via Twitter, PCL opponents Tacoma and Sacramento publicly denied involvement in any mascot trading with the Fresno Grizzlies, adding to further skepticism amongst the public.
The local Fresno media remained hot on the story, as the paparazzi were able to catch Parker at the Greyhound Bus Station Downtown Monday afternoon. He was seen purchasing a ticket to Reno, Nevada, which greatly intensified the trade rumors. Media sources tried to get a confirmation from the Reno Aces that a mascot trade agreement had been reached between the two organizations, however Aces executives remained silent throughout the process.
Fans filed into Chukchansi Park on Monday night fearing the worst. On-field MC Travis Sheridan introduced Parker to the fans as usual, and the furry celebrity rode in on his yellow ATV from the center field gate. He waved to the fans as he made his way around the warning track. “Parker Protocol” is to stop behind home plate and interact with the fans and players for the duration of pregame. This time was different though, as Parker continued his way around the warning track and back out through center field, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and not the usual Grizzlies jersey, waving to his beloved fans along the way. Some could not believe it, but for the time being it seemed like Fresno had seen the last of their furry friend.
To the relief of Grizzlies fans and the Central Valley as a whole, it was announced after the second inning that Parker would be staying in Fresno. The rumors had stemmed from Parker’s attempts to ship Dereks Franks, his hot dog-slinging arch-nemesis mascot, to Reno. There has been a lot of tension between the two ever since their confrontation with each other on Mascot Wrestling Night back on July 23. Sources say that Parker has been secretly shopping Franks on the trade market for the past week or so. It wasn’t until just a couple days ago that Parker found a suitor for Franks. In return for their new hot dog mascot, Reno agreed to send Parker a new super hero outfit, a box of silly string and a marketing intern, a nice return for the bear.
The deal appeared to be done, however the trade was never finalized due to some clerical shortcomings on Parker’s behalf. All of the paperwork had been completed, but Parker failed to fax it off to the league in time for approval. It turns out that the 12-game homestand had fatigued Fresno’s favorite bear significantly, who has been in need of some power hibernation lately. Following Saturday night’s contest against Reno, Parker intended on getting some extra sleep to prepare for the final three games of the series. This plan backfired, as Parker slept straight through the trade deadline and did not get approval from the league in time.
When all was said and done, Parker figured he would have to deal with Dereks Franks for at least one more year. “Things will not always turn out the way you want to this time of year,” Parker explained through an interpreter. “Dereks Franks and I will continue to try to work through our personal vendettas against one another in order to put on a great show for our fans. We just want to move forward from here.” Time will only tell what the fallout will be from Parker’s antics. One thing that we can be sure of: it will be highly entertaining.