Fresno has a long history with professional baseball, having played teams on a sporadic basis between 1898 and 1914. The Raisin Eaters of 1905 and the Raisin Growers of 1909 were among the era’s crop of clubs, a tribute to the region’s agricultural prominence. From 1942 to 1988, Fresno had a team in the California League. Minor League Baseball returned to Fresno in 1998, after a decade-long hiatus, in the form of the fearsome Fresno Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies, who will play in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League until 2020, spent their first four seasons at Pete Beiden Field at Fresno State. They moved to their current location, Chukchansi Park, in downtown Fresno, in 2002.
From their establishment in 1998 to 2014, the Grizzlies were affiliated with the San Francisco Giants. Four years with the Houston Astros and two with the Washington Nationals followed. The Grizzlies were the Triple-A affiliate of three World Series-winning franchises in only six seasons as a result of these affiliation changes.
As part of a wider restructure of Minor League Baseball, the Grizzlies were transferred to the Low-A West League in 2021. The circuit’s other seven teams were all former members of the California League, which Fresno was once a part of.
The Grizzlies are a Low-A team that plays in a ballpark designed for a Triple-A team in the early 2000s. This set of circumstances can be summed up in a single word: Chukchansi Park is large. It’s one of the few Minor League ballparks with a true upper deck, with second-level seating reaching from third base to the foul pole in right field. In 2008, around 15,000 people filled the ballpark for an exhibition game versus the Giants, but a remodelling project in 2019 decreased capacity to around 10,500 people.
Chukchansi Park features a 360-degree concourse with broad aisles, giving visitors plenty of space to move about. The restoration project in 2019 yielded a slew of additional fan facilities, with a focus on communal space rather than set seating.
The Fresno Social is a full-service bar in left field that is open to all fans during the game. In the left-centre field, a small berm seating area is just in front of a group area with a pool. Splash Park on the right field is intended toward young fans who may want to bring their bathing suits. The Oppo Taco, located behind the Splash Park, is possibly the best-named concession stand in Minor League Baseball.
Tacos reign supreme at Chukchansi Park. The Grizzlies began their official appreciation of this popular local dish in 2011, when they hosted their first Taco Truck Throwdown. The Grizzlies adopted an alternate “Tacos” team identity as a result of the event’s success, which involves taco trucks from all across the Central Valley. They now play as such every Tuesday. A taco truck may often be spotted parked on the concourse, in addition to the Oppo Taco stand in left field.
The tri-tip sandwich is another popular food in the area. The Grizzlies’ version can be found on the concourse behind home plate at the Uncle Bear B-Q stand.
Parker T. Bear has a yellow coat of fur, a green mouth, and a blue nose, making him a unique member of the species. Parker, a self-described “big-bellied dance machine,” has long been one of the Minor Leagues’ most energetic and ambitious mascots. Parker, for example, was certified as a Universal Life Church priest in 2016 so that he could officiate weddings at the team’s “My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show” campaign. That is dedication.
The Tower Theatre for the Performing Arts, which is in Fresno’s Tower District, is the heart of the neighbourhood. The district, which is located just north of Chukchansi Park, is one of the city’s finest bets for nightlife, live entertainment, shopping, and unique architecture. The Forestiere Underground Gardens, an open-air subterranean complex-built piece by piece and room by room over the span of 40 years, is one of Fresno’s most unusual tourist attractions. Outdoor activities can be found without having to drive far outside of Fresno. Hiking trails abound, as do bodies of water.
Food and Drink
Don’t limit your taco adventures in Fresno to the ballpark. Taquerias abound across the city and vicinity, offering a diverse range of regional cuisines. Request recommendations from locals or speak with Grizzlies personnel during a game. This information is especially useful when it comes to taco trucks, which are frequently found in unexpected places. Many of the trucks stay open late, providing unrivalled post-game food possibilities.
La Elegante, one of Fresno’s most well-known taquerias, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is close to Chukchansi Park. Start there, and then think of other popular spots like El Premio Mayor, El Mexicano, and, well, the list goes on and on.
The downtown location of Chukchansi Park is near to several hotels, some of which are within walking distance. It’s also simple to go away from the metropolis. Bed & breakfasts, guest ranches, cottages, and camping are all available in Fresno County.
The Visalia Rawhide, located 43 miles to the southeast, are the closest Minor League team near the Grizzlies. The California League is largely divided into two halves by these two teams. The San Jose Giants, Modesto Nuts, and Stockton Ports are to the south, while the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Inland Empire 66ers, and Lake Elsinore Storm are to the north. In short, a road trip encompassing the whole California League would necessitate a significant amount of driving, but it is feasible. It’s even recommended.
Road to Denver
The Grizzlies are the first stop for players coming up through the Rockies’ extensive farm system, which includes teams in Washington, Connecticut, and New Mexico.