Shortly after Houston Astros prospect Domingo Santana found out he would start the season in Triple-A, the 22-year-old outfielder called friends in Oklahoma City to let them know he was returning.
Then he was reminded that the Astros had changed affiliates in the offseason and he was headed instead to Fresno.
“Oh yeah,” he said with a big smile, recounting the story at Fresno Grizzlies media day Tuesday.
“I forgot,” said Santana, who hit .296 with 16 home runs and 81 RBIs last year with Oklahoma City. “It’s all new. It’s very different.”
New and different for the players as they familiarize themselves with Fresno and Chukchansi Park.
New and different for the Fresno franchise as its identity changes from a San Francisco Giants-centric theme to more of a local feel.
And certainly new and different for Grizzlies fans as they get accustomed to the changes ahead of Thursday’s season opener. The Grizzlies host the Las Vegas 51s at 7:05 p.m. in the first of a four-game series and eight-game homestand.
“Baseball is about change,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “We’re here now. We’re excited about it. I know the whole (Pacific Coast League) has had a lot of movement. This is the next wave.
“We have a great team. A lot of potential. A lot of prospects. And we’re just excited to get it going.”
But first, it’s about getting through the basics.
An opening day roster filled with prospects and players with big-league experience looks to be talented on paper. But many of those players appeared confused at times during their first gathering at the downtown stadium: Where to park? What jersey number to wear? How to get around Chukchansi Park?
“Is this the door that goes to the clubhouse?” one player asked while pointing to a door that led to the outfield.
Grizzlies teams of the past always had at least a few players familiar with Fresno and Chukchansi Park and thus able to share that knowledge with others. The team was affiliated with the Giants for its first 17 seasons. But this edition of the team is mostly made up of players who either never have been to Fresno or only vaguely remember their way around from playing there as a member of a visiting team.
Gaining a level of comfort and familiarity extends beyond the clubhouse. Some players still were looking for a place to live, for now calling a downtown hotel room their home.
“I thought it was a lot closer to the water,” Grizzlies first baseman and Los Angeles native Jon Singleton said of living in Fresno. “I was wrong. But it’s not a bad place.”
Grizzlies pitcher Dan Straily did his homework. He called friend and former Grizzlies pitcher Mitch Lively for a scouting report. Straily wasn’t able to get hold of Lively until after he had signed an apartment lease, but apparently made a good choice.
“It kind of put me at ease knowing that I was going to an recommended spot,” Straily said.
Now if only the rest of the Grizzlies can find similar comfort in their new surroundings.