Bobby Valentine figured he’d eventually make it to the central San Joaquin Valley. The former major league player and manager just never anticipated it’d take 48 years.
Nonetheless, the man commonly called “Bobby V” finally will come to the Valley on Thursday – as a featured guest at the Fresno Grizzlies’ Hot Stove Gala at the Fresno Convention Center.
“When I played in the minors, I was supposed to go to (Class-A) Bakersfield and probably would’ve played Fresno in the California League,” said Valentine, who was a first-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1968. “But things happened, and I kind of skipped over it, went from rookie ball to Triple-A and never made it there.”
Perhaps all the better for the Hot Stove audience, which figures to be amused by Valentine’s stories based heavily on his 16 years managing in the bigs, where he feuded with veteran players, clashed with front office and reached a World Series.
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Valentine even dished a little bit about the time he disguised himself in a mustache and sunglasses to stay in the dugout despite having been ejected.
The Bee: Any ties to Fresno?
Valentine: No. I just always heard of the great Giants teams that came out of Fresno. Last year, I did the (Triple-A) World Series championship that the Grizzlies won. I was color commentator. That was fun.
Yes, the Fresno Grizzlies defeated the Columbus Clippers 7-0 to win the Triple-A national championship. What stood out about that game?
Domination by a crafty right hander (Chris Devenski). He took control of the game. And it looked like, in his mind, there was never a doubt what he was going to do.
So the San Francisco Giants were the Grizzlies’ parent club for 17 years. The Houston Astros became their parent club last year. Both have had a busy offseason. Who’s in better position to win the World Series?
It is an even year, so it’s hard to bet against the Giants.
Baseball analyst Bobby Valentine on a potential 2016 World Series champion
It is an even year, so it’s hard to bet against the Giants. But those are two pretty good teams right there. You have a really good, young team in Houston. Of course, here in the East Coast, they’re thinking the (New York) Mets have got as good of a chance to win the World Series as anyone.
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa played a brief stretch with the Grizzlies last season before he won the American League Rookie of the Year. Would you say he’s already the best shortstop in the game?
He’s that talented of a shortstop. But I couldn’t say he’s the best. You better put up a few more numbers. But I sure enjoy watching him. He’s the Alex Rodriguez 2016 version as far as I’m concerned. His hitting ability to pull the breaking ball but still have such power to right, center field on fastballs – he looks like a matured hitter well beyond his years.
There’s been talk of using a computer system or a laser to call balls and strikes instead of a home-plate umpire. It was used in an Independent League game. Think Major League Baseball should turn to the computer to determine balls and strikes?
Now that we have technology that could call balls and strikes, I think it should be implemented as soon as possible.
Bobby Valentine, who managed 16 seasons in the Majors
I think we’re moving in the exact, right direction. If it’s a computer system that needs to be implemented or a laser at home plate that needs to be created, I believe a strike should be a strike and a ball should be a ball. Inconsistent calls, it’s the worst thing about our game, always driven me crazy. Whether it’s a Little League game or a professional game, the strike zone should just be the strike zone. It shouldn’t be some individual’s determination of what the strike zone is on that day. There’s also misinterpretation of the strike zone and human error. Now that we have technology that could call balls and strikes, I think it should be implemented as soon as possible.
In a Sports Illustrated story from 2015, the headline said you thought PEDs were good for baseball. Can you elaborate on that stance?
I never said they’re good for the game; I just said that they’ll be in the game. And once they become legal, then why wouldn’t one take them if they’re legal and they’re not harmful.
Once they become legal, then why wouldn’t one take them if they’re legal and they’re not harmful.
Bobby Valentine on the future of performance enhancing drugs in baseball
You last managed in the majors in 2012. One season with the Boston Red Sox, then got fired. Did that season affect your desire to manage in the bigs ever again?
I enjoy anything I can, every day that I can. If some of the rest of the days of my life put me on a field managing somewhere, I’m sure that I would enjoy it as much as I have in the past.
Lastly, there was that one infamous moment when you got ejected but returned to the dugout with a mustache and sunglasses, trying to be incognito. Looking back now, is that a funny moment for you like it is for so many others? Or are you embarrassed and regret wearing a disguise to stay in the dugout?
I thought it was funny then. Every time they show that clip on TV, I still laugh. But I think I’ll share what exactly happened for the Hot Stove.
55th annual Hot Stove Gala
- Thursday: 5 p.m. at Fresno Convention Center’s New Exhibit Hall
- Featured guests: Former major league manager Bobby Valentine, Pacific Coast League Commissioner Branch Rickey, Fresno Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco, Grizzlies catcher Tyler Heineman, Grizzlies reliever James Hoyt
- Admission: $75 per person, $35 children (12 and younger), $700 per table of 10
- Contact: Grizzlies Community Fund Manager Whitney Campbell, 559-320-2547 or www.FresnoGrizzlies.com