Grizzlies' All-Stars and manager deal with whirlwind schedule

The Fresno BeeJuly 17, 2014 

Bob Mariano glanced at the clock again and shut his eyes, hoping to sneak in an hour nap before arriving at the ballpark.

The Fresno Grizzlies manager, along with catcher Andrew Susac and reliever Heath Hembree, had been awake since 2 a.m. to catch a flight that was scheduled to leave two hours later from Durham, N.C., where all three participated in Thursday's Triple-A All-Star Game.

"I'm running on fumes," Mariano said before the Grizzlies' 7-6 loss to the El Paso Chihuahuas on Thursday night at Chukchansi Park.

"Going East Coast to West Coast and then going to work on very little sleep, it's tough," Mariano added. "But it was worth it. What a great experience."

Mariano managed the Pacific Coast League All-Stars, his first participation in an all-star game since managing the Florida State League squad in the 2001 Class-A game.

Hembree played in his third minor-league all-star game and pitched a perfect fifth inning in relief for the PCL. Susac caught three innings and struck out in his lone at-bat, a year after starting for the Eastern League in the Double-A game.

After flying nine hours with a connection in Salt Lake City, the three arrived in Fresno around 1 p.m. Both Hembree and Susac were given the day off for additional rest.

"The energy is pretty low," Susac said. "I'm not going to lie. I'm pretty glad I'm not in the lineup. That's probably the first time for me to ever feel that way.

"I just couldn't sleep on the plane. There could be a bed on the plane and I probably still wouldn't be able to sleep in the air. But then I'm looking at Hembree and he's passed out the whole way. Wish I could do that."

Mariano could relate.

Except, he had too much on his mind while preparing for the season's final seven weeks.

The Grizzlies lost pitcher Mitch Lively during the break after he opted out of his contract and got picked up by the Washington Nationals (then was assigned to Triple-A Syracuse).

Outfielder Juan Perez was returning to the Grizzlies for a fourth time after the San Francisco Giants demoted him. Mariano initially had Perez in the starting lineup until they found out all of Perez's equipment had yet to arrive.

The Grizzlies also were making room for second baseman Brandon Hicks, who cleared waivers and is expected to join the club today.

"Got a thousand things running through your mind, about the lineup, the roster," Mariano said, "and you're also concerned about the flight getting you back in town in time."

Instead of his usual showing up at Chukchansi Park as early as noon for games with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch, Mariano didn't arrive downtown Thursday until about 4:30 p.m. Mariano admitted he dozed off a little longer than he wanted.

Susac and Hembree also were allowed to report later, and the team skipped pre-game infield practice.

Still, they agreed the Triple-A All-Star festivities were a pleasurable experience.

In addition to the game, players and coaches got to take a tour of the University of North Carolina campus. They also had a special dinner on the basketball court of Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium and received special individual introductions as if they were about to play hoops for the Blue Devils.

"It was fun," Susac said. "Everything was awesome. You take away the travel from East Coast to West Coast and it was great.

"It's just a quick transition with the time change and the travel. I'm sure I'll be ready to go after this."


The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6362, or @Banteola_TheBee on Twitter.

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