(From left to right) Parker the Bear, ABC 30 anchor David Bataller, Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan, assistant director of player player personnel Allen Rowin and Grizzle’s executive vice president Derek Franks paricipate in a meet-and-greet Thursday at Chukchansi Park. Darlene Wendels/ The Collegian
The Fresno Grizzlies’ transition as the Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate got a big push Thursday night when the team unveiled designs for new home uniforms and held a meet-and-greet between fans and the Astros’ front office.
The Grizzlies, who ended their 17-year partnership with the San Francisco Giants in September after their contract was not renewed, signed a two-year player development contract with the Astros, who boast arguably the best farm system in Major League Baseball.
Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan, director of player personnel Quinton McCracken and assistant director of player personnel Allen Rowin assured Grizzlies fans they plan to field a competitive team.
Top prospects Mark Appel, a right-handed pitcher out of Stanford, infielder Carlos Correa and members of a core group that has won championships at the rookie, Low-A and High-A levels are expected to make their way to Fresno as early as next year, Ryan said.
“People have watched what we’ve done in Houston,” Ryan said prior to the meet-and-greet. “You’ve seen the Sports Illustrated article [that touted the Astros as the best player development organization], you’ve seen the press about how we stripped this thing down to very barebones. We’re building it back and we’re building it to last.”
The Astros, who have accumulated high draft picks and prospects through a slew of losing seasons and a front office that’s gutted its major league roster as part of long-term rebuilding, last made a World Series appearance in 2005. Much of that roster, like the current batch of prospects making their way up the farm system, featured many touted prospects.
“We have a lot of prospects,” Ryan said. “We’ve had a very ugly teardown process. When our new ownership came in, we traded away basically anybody that had any value at the major-league level and we got as many prospects as we could.”
McCracken said, “Our No. 1 objective is to develop talent to the big-league level, but we understand we want to do that in a winning environment.”
Already the changes brewing at Chukchansi Park are bearing Houston’s mark.
Fresno’s newest promotional logo has the traditional slashed orange-colored F insignia with the lone star in the Astros’ logo as the backdrop.
Mockups of the Grizzlies’ new home uniforms were unveiled before more than 400 fans at Chukchansi Park and feature an orange Fresno script.
“We felt this was, now more than ever, the time to wear our city on our jersey,” Grizzlies executive vice president Derek Franks said. “We want our guys to wear Fresno loud and proud this year.”
Steve DeFrancesco, manager of the Astros’ former Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City the past four seasons, has been tapped as the Grizzlies manager, the Astros announced Thursday.
Fresno resident Charles Bartlett attended Thursday night’s meet-and-greet with his son Sean. The two said they make it a goal to try and attend at least 75 percent of Grizzlies home games each season.
“The affiliation has changed, but the Grizzlies are here, and they’re still Fresno’s team. That’s the way I look at it,” Barrett said.