East Meets West in Transition of Minor League Affiliation


Story By: Karl Cooke Jr., Reporter

It was a day of excitement and optimism as nearly 300 Fresno Grizzlies season ticket holders were introduced to the Washington Nationals’ top office personnel and were able to participate in a Q & A to get to know their new MLB affiliates during a meet and greet at Chukchansi Park on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

Fresno faithful were treated to a live band and several concession booths to eat and drink prior to the Q & A along with other entertainment stations like a photo booth and a pitching game for the kids as they waited to meet the team their city would be representing.

Formerly known as the Syracuse Chiefs, the Nationals’ Triple-A team needed a new place to call home after the New York Mets bought out Syracuse to represent them and Fresno was one of the cities on their radar as a new home to play baseball. After deals with Nashville fell through, their second choice of Fresno welcomed them with open arms and were able to make a deal that would have them here in the Central Valley for at least two years.

The Chiefs placed fifth in the International League North division holding a record of 64 wins and 76 losses. Although they hosted a losing record, it doesn’t take away the talent they have on their team. Irving Falu placed 15th in batting average in the International League along with Phillips Valdez ranking in the top five in season ERA average. The team was tied for fifth in their league for overall team batting average and was sixth in the league in average ERA as a team.

The Nationals’ also look to bring three talented players listed on the list of the top 100 prospects in MLB. Fresno can expect to see great talent in outfielder Victor Robles (ranked #4), shortstop Carter Kieboom (ranked #37), and utility player Luis Garcia (ranked #81).

The biggest concern by fans and the teams was the big distance separating Fresno from Washington and how that might affect the players if they need to travel from being promoted or demoted. Nationals’ Director of Player Development Michael Scialabba addressed the concern and ensured things will be fine as is.

“Sometimes the opportunity matches up perfectly [geographically] and sometimes it doesn’t,” Scialabba said. “We’re going to make the most of it and put a great product out there for you all to cheer for coming this April.”

Opening day for the Fresno Grizzlies will be on April 4, 2019 as the new representatives for the Washington Nationals’ minor league team.