The Fresno Grizzlies have seen the future: the Houston Astros will be the World Champions in 2017.
The Grizzlies are so confident in the imminent success of their new parent club that they are giving away Houston Astros 2017 World Championship rings to fans attending August 15's game. It's all part of a larger Back to the Future-themed promotion, during which the club will wear Delorean-inspired jerseys with "The Future Starts in Fresno" emblazoned across the front. These jerseys, designed in-house by Grizzlies graphic designer Andy Inman and manufactured by OT Sports, are unique within Minor League Baseball's Back to the Future-saturated 2015 promo landscape. Upon the conclusion of the ballgame, the game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off with the proceeds benefiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
As evidenced by their frequent Twitter battles with rival organizations, the Grizzlies are not a team to shy away from strong rhetoric. In fact, they have dubbed August 15's event nothing less than "the boldest promotion in the history of professional sports." The promotion is being announced Tuesday at a "press event adventure" at the team's home of Chukchansi Park, an event that features general manager Derek Franks entering the stadium in a (supposedly) time-traveling Delorean.
To fully understand the Grizzlies' motivations for this attention-garnering promotion, a little backstory is necessary.
From their 1998 inception through the 2014 season, the Grizzlies were the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. As such, many of their former players went on to win World Championships as members of the Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014. But this celebrated partnership was severed following the 2014 campaign, with the Giants choosing instead to affiliate with the Grizzlies' intrastate rival, the Sacramento River Cats. With limited options available, the Grizzlies then announced a two-year Player Development contract with the Astros.
There's no going back now.
"We know Back to the Future 2 predicted a different World Series champ, but we saw 2017 as a much more interesting year," said Grizzlies general manager Derek Franks. "The Grizzlies firmly believe that the Astros talent that'll come through Fresno these next few years are future World Champions."
Among the top prospects likely to spend time in Fresno over the next couple seasons are shortstop Carlos Correa and right-hander Mark Appel, both of whom were top picks in their respective Draft classes.
Grizzlies communications manager Ryan Young added that "The Future Starts in Fresno" promotion is a way for the team to make the Houston affiliation interesting and exciting to local fans and media.
"A lot of the media here, they've been telling us that [the Astros] are not relevant locally," said Young. "But we believe in the talent that will be coming here, and that the guys coming here now will be part of a World Championship team in 2017."
Young, in keeping with the theme of the day, also predicted the reaction that the team would receive in the wake of their bold promotional announcement.
"I'm forecasting that it will be split right down the middle," he said. "Either 'Oh my God, that's awesome.' Or 'Oh my God, how dare you?'"
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.