The smell of champagne inside the clubhouse is gone and the ceiling, carpet and walls are all cleaned up and dried over the long offseason.
The goggles many Fresno Grizzlies players and coaches wore while spraying bubbly in every direction have been stored away, too.
But make no mistake, there’s still plenty to re-live and celebrate about the Grizzlies’ Pacific Coast League title and Triple-A national championship captured last year.
The Grizzlies will make sure of it during Friday’s home opener, with the night essentially serving as a long-awaited coronation.
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There will be a championship flag presentation and honorary rings to give out. Pregame and postgame fireworks are scheduled – with the possibility of fireworks during the game as well, considering the Grizzlies’ potent offense.
And it will all take place before an anticipated sellout crowd in the first game at Chukchansi Park since the franchise won its first league and national crowns.
“We couldn’t be more excited,” Grizzlies general manager Derek Franks said. “It’s an opportunity for Fresno to welcome back our Triple-A national champs for the first time.
“We’re just very excited for all the things that’s in store.”
25 percent The Grizzlies’ increase in season ticket sales and group purchases from a year ago, with much of the boost attributed to Fresno’s championship last season
The championship run already has helped the Grizzlies’ ticket sales, with season ticket and group sales up as much as 25 percent from a year ago, Franks said.
Franks said they’ve sold 8,000 more tickets for the first eight games of this season than a year ago. And as of Thursday afternoon, more than 11,000 tickets had been sold for Friday’s home opener. Pregame festivities start around 6:15 p.m. and the first pitch is at 7:05.
We’re very excited for the city of Fresno, the front-office people here and the organization.
Fresno Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco
“We’re very excited for the city of Fresno, the front-office people here and the organization,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “Got a lot of guys back. We’ll have a chance to go out and back it one more time.”
With the recent return of last year’s league MVP in Matt Duffy (who started the season with the parent-club Houston Astros), the Grizzlies have 15 players back who were part of the playoff run.
The Grizzlies’ first eight games this season were on the road and two were rained out, but the mere return to their home clubhouse should reinvigorate the team.
The Grizzlies already were reminded of last year’s accomplishment during spring training when they were presented their championship rings.
The first 10,000 fans in Chukchansi Park will receive a replica national championship flag.
Select fans and Grizzlies sponsors will be presented their championship rings Friday. And the first 10,000 fans in the stadium will receive a replica national championship flag.
“One of my favorite memories is popping bottles in the clubhouse every time,” said second baseman/outfielder Tony Kemp, who was named last year’s PCL championship MVP. “It’s just a blast to see how much hard work everyone puts into the game and to their craft. Then when you get to celebrate, you celebrate hard.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we had another playoff run and we were winning another PCL championship,” Kemp added. “There’s 100 percent positivity. Everyone is ready to work.”
But first, they will celebrate one more time.
“It’s going to be the biggest opening night,” Franks said. “What better way to start your season?”
Fresno Grizzlies home opener
LAS VEGAS 51s AT FRESNO GRIZZLIES
- Series: 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1:05 p.m. Sunday and 12:05 p.m. Monday at Chukchansi Park
- Homestand: After the Vegas series, the Grizzlies will host Salt Lake for a four-game series Tuesday-Friday