"So basically, the Fresno Grizzlies just won the World Series."
While such a statement might normally be chalked up to simple homerism, anyone who has tracked the success of these Giants can understand the sentiment. More than half of the club came up through the farm system and spent time in Fresno on their way to calling AT&T Park home. No team, Major or Minor League, had the kind of impact on the 2010 World Series Champions that the Fresno Grizzlies did.
The starting playoff rotation looked like a valedictorian list of Grizzlies graduates. Tim Lincecum ('07), Matt Cain ('05), Jonathan Sanchez ('06-'07) and Madison Bumgarner ('10) all shined at various points through the postseason for San Francisco, with three of the four earning wins in the World Series. They guided a Giants staff that compiled a 2.47 ERA over the 15-game playoff run.
Helping to finish the job was Brian Wilson ('05-'07), whose playoff total of six saves was double that of the next closest player, the great Mariano Rivera. In all, eight of the 11 pitchers on the staff for every round of San Francisco's improbable title run were raised first as Grizzlies before joining the Giants.
The great pitching performances were supported by timely, clutch hitting. Of course, Rookie of the Year candidate Buster Posey ('09-'10) did his part, trailing only Cody Ross for the team lead with his .288 (17-for-59) average, scoring five runs and driving in six more.
Andres Torres ('09), Pat Burrell ('10) and Nate Schierholtz ('07-'08) played key roles in the outfield, while Travis Ishikawa ('08) split time at first base with Aubrey Huff. The Giants' middle infielders- Freddy Sanchez and World Series MVP Edgar Renteria- were never Grizzlies on their way up, but both played with the Grizzlies on Major League rehab assignments this season.
While veteran acquisitions like Renteria and Ross made names for themselves by taking home MVP honors for the work they did during the postseason, the Giants earned their rings thanks in large part to their young core of players. For Fresno Grizzlies fans, that means the stars they got to see before they were famous. More than 2,600 fans came out to Chukchansi Park over the course of the five-game series to watch their former Grizzlies on the big stage, as the ballclub opened its doors for free and showed the games on the video board overlooking the field. It was a fitting way for Grizzlies fans to be able to share in the glory of their former players, watching them from the same place where they first saw them play in person.
As it turned out, both the first and last pitches of the series were thrown and caught by former Grizzlies. Lincecum delivered a called strike to Posey to open Game 1, while Wilson fired a fastball past a swinging Nelson Cruz to etch the Giants in the history books.
The 2011 season promises more new faces destined for great places. Top prospects like Brandon Belt, Darren Ford and Charlie Culberson may not be household names yet, but neither were Posey, or Cain, or Lincecum when they first arrived in the Central Valley. Chukchansi Park will open its doors for the 10th season of baseball in downtown Fresno on April 7th, 2011. Don't miss your chance to see the next wave of Future Giants while they are still Fresno Grizzlies.