“Didn’t you write that Love Letter to the Fresno Grizzlies?” To my utter surprise, someone said that to me when I sat down at a table full of strangers who were soon to be friends during the Meet the Houston Astros Front Office event at Chukchansi Park on Thursday night.
I’ve been realizing something awesome since I wrote that blog several weeks ago, right after it was announced that the Giants were leaving town and the Astros were taking their place. There are many people in Fresno who LOVE Grizzlies baseball as much as I do. It started with the overwhelming response to my letter – people I would never expect stopping me and telling me that they had read it, and that they agreed: We should support the Grizzlies because of baseball, and because of Fresno. It crystallized at the event on Thursday as I looked around at the crowd who came out to hear from the Astros brain trust and to ask thoughtful questions about the future of Fresno Grizzlies baseball.
The key word here really is FRESNO, something that the Grizzlies will be emphasizing over the coming year, starting with their unveiling of the first new uniform, which now has our city’s name proudly emblazoned across the front. It’s more important than affiliations. More important than star players.
So don’t expect the Grizzlies to shy away from the past, either. They are still fully celebrating the Giants, hosting watch parties while they make a run toward another World Series championship (as this Cardinal fan’s heart breaks, lol), and they will continue to honor the many, many Giants stars who made their way up from Chukchansi Park.
“We’re proud of these guys,” said Grizzlies Executive Vice President Derek Franks. “We’re proud they came from Fresno.”
The Astros, too, recognize the great history of baseball in the Central Valley. Reid Ryan, the President of Business Operations (and son of the great Nolan Ryan), and Quinton McCracken, the Director of Player Development, both played for the Visalia Oaks, and both know the stories of Madison Bumgarner, of Buster Posey, of Joe Panik.
“We’re hoping to get some of that Fresno magic, and maybe we’ll be in the World Series in a couple of years,” Ryan said.
Winning was the other theme of the night. As we’ve all heard by now, the Astros are expected to field the best minor league team in baseball next year. And that, really, is just going to be so much fun to watch, no matter who you root for in the majors. This team will be young and hungry, all top prospects cutting their teeth here in Fresno, working their way toward that call-up. Ryan described touring the Grizzlies clubhouse and imagining the next big Astros star hearing that he had finally achieve his dream in the manager’s office.
And the Astros front office’s goal is that this new Fresno Grizzlies team will truly integrate themselves into the community.
“This team is going to, night in and night out, bust their butts out on the field,” said Assistant Director of Player Development Allen Rowin, “and be good citizens in the community and outside. That’s a directive from our ownership, leadership … that the guys participate, integrate and are good citizens on the field and off the field.”
After all, as I was reminded again on Thursday night, this community is what Fresno Grizzlies baseball is all about. “This is my baseball family,” one of my new friends told me. And boy did I feel that all around me amongst the fans in the stands.
So I implore you, again, to show your support next season. Come out. Watch some games. Become a part of this FRESNO Grizzlies family.
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