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Fresno Grizzlies: Proud Affiliate Of The 2010 San Francisco Giants World Series Champions
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Fresno Grizzlies: Proud Affiliate Of the 2010 San Francisco Giants World Series Champions

In 2010, the Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball team, as AAA affiliate of Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants, reached the pinnacle of professional success when the Giants won the World Series for the first time since the team moved to San Francisco in 1958. It was, in fact, the organization's first World Series championship since the New York Giants won the title in 1954.

Fresno, California is situated about 225 miles southeast of San Francisco, and, as such, is ideally suited geographically to be the highest-ranking affiliate (in terms of player talent) in the Giants organization. The Grizzlies play in the Southern Division of the Pacific Conference of the Pacific Coast League, a AAA organization within Minor League Baseball.

The Giants' AA affiliate, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, is located in Richmond, Virginia, but the parent club has another affiliate in California, the Single A level San Jose Giants.

Almost to an organization, minor league baseball teams are owned and operated independently of their parent major league team, though the parent team will make all decisions regarding player personnel. A minor league team's professional success -- as opposed to its marketing success -- ultimately depends on how well the team does in developing the young talent provided by the major league organization.

The Grizzlies' professional success was achieved at the expense of competitive success on the field. The team was competing with the Sacramento River Cats, the Oakland A's AAA affiliate, for first place in the Southern Division and a playoff berth for the Pacific Coast League championship. For most of the season, the Grizzlies led the River Cats. At one point, they had a lead of as much as 12 1/2 games.

But the Giants, competing feverishly for a playoff spot of their own in the National League Western Division against the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies, siphoned a number of players away from the Grizzlies, including Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. Both of these players would go on to contribute substantially to what would become the San Francisco Giants World Series championship season.

However, deprived of much of their best talent, the Grizzlies would squander their lead to Sacramento and miss the Pacific Coast League post-season altogether.

Earlier this year, while purchasing a ticket for the Grizzlies annual Hot Stove banquet, I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Cummings, the team's managing general partner. I found myself moved to tears as I told him how much the San Francisco Giants World Series championship had meant to me and how grateful I was for the role that the Grizzlies had played in the Giants' success and at the expense of their own ability to compete in their division.

With a twinkle in his eye, Cummings replied to me, "Oh yes, the Giants did quite well for themselves after they ravaged us." He then confirmed that the Giants' competitive success was more important to him than that of his own team.

In 2011, the Grizzlies took full advantage of the marketing advantages provided by the success that the parent club had enjoyed the year before. On every Wednesday home game, the team gave away to the first 2000 fans a limited edition trading card showing a different Fresno Grizzlies player from the past. Each of the players featured was someone who would become a contributing member of the 2010 San Francisco Giants World Series championship team.

In upcoming articles, I will display each of the limited edition cards that I've collected, identify each player on the card, and discuss his development with the Grizzlies and explain how he ultimately graduated into a member of the San Francisco Giants World Series Championship Class of 2010.


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