As it says in my bio, I am “equally likely to be found wearing heels or a baseball cap.” So I’m going to take a break from all the pretty things to talk about what was heavy on my mind all day Thursday: the big shuffle over at the Fresno Grizzlies.
Even though the writing seemed to be on the wall for months, it still felt like a big blow when it was officially announced that the San Francisco Giants were ending their affiliation with the Grizzlies – and that the Houston Astros would be stepping into their cleats.
I’m going to save my words when it comes to talking about what could have been. If Giants fans weren’t convinced that they should be attending games after Buster Posey took off, and so many others before and after him, then there’s no point in arguing about it. It’s too late now. I will simply say that it broke my heart year after year to see the empty stands.
But the Grizzlies also mean so much more than Buster Posey. Than Madison Bumgarner or Brian Wilson.
I fell in love with baseball while watching the Grizzlies many years ago. And I have had so, so many memorable experiences at Chukchansi Park since then.
There’s nothing like the intimacy of a minor league ballpark. If you choose to, you can be right in the action, at the fraction of the price of a Giants game. I used to sit front row behind the bullpen so I could watch the relief pitchers warm up. Sometimes they would chat with us between innings or even sneak us bubblegum from the huge stash they always kept on the bench.
A couple years ago, the Memphis Redbirds (the minor league affiliate for my St. Louis Cardinals) came to town. I was able to get autographs from all of the guys and sit front row behind home plate, watching players who are now on the field on my TV as I’m typing this sentence.
Honestly, if you enjoy baseball, there’s just nothing like it…
At $8 a pop for bleacher seats, it’s one of the cheapest tickets in town – for one of the highest-quality sporting events you’ll see outside of the pros. Word is that the Astros are maybe the best minor league team in all of baseball right now. They’ve been called the 2017 World Series champions. How exciting it’s going to be to experience that level of skill right on the verge of breaking out!
There’s also the fun that comes only from minor league baseball. Where else can you get Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Night (complete with jerseys) and Taco Truck Throwdowns? Parker is one of the hardest-working mascots in baseball; it’s almost worth the ticket just to see what he’s going to do on the field and in the stands
In the past couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to get to escort beloved children’s characters to the mound for first pitch as part of my day job at ValleyPBS. It’s such a kick to see kids waving and calling from up in their seats, and clamoring to meet the characters on the concourse.
All of that disappears if we don’t support the Grizzlies. If we don’t turn our love of baseball and our city into real action. No one wins if the Grizzlies go away, and Chukchansi Park sits empty.
So if you’ve never really experienced what I’m talking about, if you love sports and care about baseball at all, I hope you will give the Grizzlies a chance next year. If you’re just looking for something different to do with your family, try it out!
For those of you who are as fired up as me and are rallying around the Grizzlies, declaring you’ll support them no matter what, I implore you to remember this feeling. Go to opening day, and to as many games as you can afterward next season. I’ll see you there.
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