Friday Flight: A trip to Fresno

I’m still playing with the name of what I hope will be a semi-regular feature. While I tend to write about the prospect side of the Minors and leave the scene-setting to my esteemed colleague Benjamin Hill over on Ben’s Biz Blog, but one of the things I do like about this job is the ability to learn about and sometimes be lucky enough to go to some great minor league towns.

All the prospecting doesn’t always leave me time to travel to every city and ballpark I’d like to go to, so I figured we could do some virtual travelling together from time to time.  To kick things off, I thought we’d head to the Left Coast and the Fresno Grizzlies, Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants (You can follow them on twitter @fresnogrizzlies).

Obviously, I can’t ignore the prospect side of things and as everyone knows, the Giants have actively promoted from within, with many of today’s Major Leaguers (injured and healthy) stopping in Fresno. Here’s a list of the current roster and when they at least stopped by in Fresno:

Tim Lincecum ’07
Brian Wilson ’05 ’06 ’07
Buster Posey ’09 ’10
Andres Torres ’09 ’11
Matt Cain ’05
Jonathan Sanchez ’06 ’07
Madison Bumgarner ’10
Sergio Romo ’08 ’09
Travis Ishikawa ’08 ’11
Nate Schierholtz ’07 ’08 ’09
Santiago Casilla ’10
Darren Ford ’10 ’11
Emmanuel Burriss ’08 ’09 ’10 ’11
Ryan Rohlinger ’09 ’10 ’11
Ryan Vogelsong ’01 ’11 (yes, you read that right)
Mark DeRosa ’10 ’11
Pat Burrell ’10
Alex Hinshaw ’08 ’09 ’10 ’11
Dan Runzler ’09 ’10
Freddy Sanchez ’09 ’10
Eli Whiteside ’08 ’09
Brandon Belt ’11

In terms of current prospects, Thomas Neal, No. 7 on the Giants’ Top 10, is currently hitting .319. Brett Pill may not be as big of a “prospect” but the guy is tied for eighth in the PCL in RBIs with 55. The Grizzlies have two pitchers — Shane Loux and Andrew Kown — in the Top 10 in ERA. Mark Kroon is second in saves.

Now, while most wouldn’t plan a trip west just to go to Fresno, the beauty of it is how centrally located it is. Head to a Grizzlies game, then fill up on raisins (yes, it’s the raisin capital of the world — I would love it if the city’s slogan was “There’s shrinkage!”). After that, you can head south and get to Los Angeles in three and a half hours. Head north to Yosemite National Park (an hour and a half) or all the way to San Francisco (three hours).

Chukchansi Park opened in 2002, an HOK-built stadium that seats 12,500 and is a terrific park in the Pacific Coast League. Great views of the skyline and the mountains can be had by all.

If you want me to focus on a minor league town near you, let me know and I’ll try to do so!

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