Greetings. I have returned from my first road trip of the 2014 season; articles from the trip have been running on MiLB.com throughout the past week and into next, and the corresponding blog posts will soon follow. (I promise!) But first, another edition of “Why I Love,” in which Minor League fans explain just what it is that they love about their favorite team. Today’s guest writer is Milana Lock, a verifiable Fresno Grizzlies super-fan who I wrote about during one of my 2013 road trips. If YOU would like to write a “Why I Love” post, email me firstname.lastname@example.org
But, for now, the floor is ceded to Milana:
Love of The Game, Crack of the Bat, Thump in the Glove
Stories from the world of Major League Baseball are filled with huge contracts, catchy nicknames, big endorsements, fan worship, scandals and gourmet menus; these are the topics that go along with the the sport at its highest level. But there’s a side to baseball that should be fully appreciated, as it’s one of the most important: the Road to “The Show”.
I’m a devout fan of those who play for the Fresno Grizzlies (Triple-A team for the San Francisco Giants), and there are several things that draw me to every home game: the amazing work ethic, a determination to excel, and a level of play that, hopefully, gets the players noticed by the parent club’s front office. With intense focus, these guys work out and play just as hard as their Major League counterparts; maybe with more heart, and definitely for much less money (a maximum of about $2,200 a month). In fact, it seems they play harder because they have more to prove.
The Minor Leagues are a place where fans have the closest access to players, some who are returning for another season and others who are entering a higher level for the first time. While our hope is for them to get a call-up, there’s a mixed yet very real joy in seeing favorite players again and renewing friendships that are based on unconditional support and encouragement. The fields are smaller, the stands are closer to the bullpen. The autograph line, filled with kids and adults alike, is the place where players take the time to sign autographs and pose for selfies.
Sitting only 75 feet from the field, we feel the vibe of 6-4-3-2 plays for a third out and actually see the pride on the players’ faces. I’ve been wowed by outfielders who refine their throw from medium-depth center field to get an out at home plate, and have launched myself out of my seat to unapologetically celebrate a 410-foot grand slam.
It’s this kind of up-close and personal experience that makes it important to be more supportive, to share in this love of the game and the players that develop within it. If they can play everyday in 105-degree heat, then I can go to every Grizzlies home game and cheer. If they get a percentage from the sale of their Spring Training batting jerseys, then I’ll buy one or two from the parent club’s team store. If I’m given a chance to meet them, then they’ll get a birthday shout-out on the big board. And if there’s heckling going on, I’ll be even louder in shouting words of encouragement. These may be little things but they seem to mean a lot; it’s a way for a fan to be a part of the game.
The phrase “you get what you put into it, and more” applies to the Minor League ballpark experience as well. If you look closely, you’ll watch top prospects refine their skills and be able to tell friends at the Major League park who are the up and comers, who’s dangerous with an opposite field bat, who delivers high heat, who’s got crazy-fast legs, who’s a thief on the basepaths, who brings that secret weapon, who’s got a cannon arm. In a way, I guess you could say that Minor League fans are unofficial scouts. In the spirit of Yogi Berra, “you get to see the future today”.
And where else but in these leagues can you strike a pose with prized baubles, and even wear them for a minute? These are lifetime memories!
You can find new things, almost weekly, at the Grizzlies’ team store while also supporting the community. New T-shirts and caps designed with this year’s logos or slogans, black and orange nail polish (team colors), foam fingers printed with the mascot’s paw, the Major League club’s caps and hoodies, and blingy summer tops are all on display. Also, it’s the place to buy something that contributes to the organization’s community programs, as a portion of the proceeds helps to fund school scholarships, special needs baseball games and equipment, and a reading program. What a great combination! We can improve the community while supporting our team in style.
Yes, I love watching the game, eating another hot dog, sitting for too long, buying another T-shirt, and cheering loudly at every accomplishment. Yes, getting to the Majors is the ultimate dream come true for a ball player. But the pursuit of that dream and the celebration of the heart of hopeful champions is what brings me back to the same seat, every season, every night. Play Ball!
Thanks, Milana. And, again, if you’d like to write a “Why I Love” blog post, about YOUR favorite team, then get in touch. I am very accessible and a pleasure to communicate with.