Unanimity is a near impossible thing to achieve these days, unless someone stacks the deck.
In advance of Thursday night’s season opener at Chukchansi Park, that someone was me.
How did I manage it? By asking 15 Fresno Grizzlies players, coaches and front office staffers a simple but pointed question:
Do you love baseball?
Of course all 15 responded with some version of yes.
Starting pitcher Brady Rodgers: “Absolutely. That’s why I play.”
Hitting coach Darryl Robinson: “I do love baseball – completely.”
Reliever Tyson Perez, the local boy from Hanford and Fresno City College: “Of course. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
First baseman/DH A.J. Reed: “Yeah.”
I do love baseball – completely.
Darryl Robinson, Fresno Grizzlies hitting coach
Great, that’s settled. The next step was to achieve a little diversity of thought, so I asked the natural follow-up:
What about baseball do you love most?
Closer James Hoyt: “Honestly, I just love the grind. Coming out here and spending six months with guys, going out there competing and doing what we do best. It’s addicting. You go home in the offseason and you’re kind of just waiting and sitting around for that time to come again.”
First baseman/DH Tyler White: “I love going out every day and competing. And this is one of the few things you can do at the age of 26 where you compete every single day. In the offseason, that’s what you really start to miss.”
Manager Tony DeFrancesco: “Every day is a new challenge. It’s not like you’re punching a clock or working on a conveyor belt. You’re working with human beings and motivating them to be the best they can be. That’s what I love about it.”
Reed: “Hitting homers.”
It’s a competition between the hitter and the pitcher, and I won. I love to win.
A.J. Reed, explaining why hitting home runs is what he loves most about baseball
Two players, while talking about their love for baseball, mentioned how the game strengthened the bond they have with their fathers.
Rodgers: “It’s just something that’s always been a part of my life. I guess baseball kind of brought me and my dad together, brought me and my family together. Just being able to go out in the backyard and play catch with your dad, that’s every kid’s dream. I guess that’s where my love for the game really started.”
Outfielder Jon Kemmer, whose father is a baseball coach in Pennsylvania: “I saw my dad’s love for the game, and I just tried to do everything my dad does. He taught me everything I know about the game.”
While sincere and thoughtful, these are the sorts of responses you’d expect from men who play and coach baseball for a living. But baseball is the most unconventional of sports, filled with its own unique quirks.
And the quirkier answers to “What do you love most?” came from those who aren’t in uniform.
Broadcaster Doug Greenwald: “What I love about baseball is that in the bottom of the ninth your best hitter is powerless if his place in the order doesn’t come up, and your best pitcher already went seven innings and he’s out of there. Your best players don’t decide the outcome, most of the time, unlike other sports. You know Tom Brady is going to pass at the end of the Super Bowl. You know LeBron James or Steph Curry are going to shoot. They’re not going to be on the bench because they’ve taken too many shots. Baseball is different, and that’s what I love most.”
I love the smell of pine tar. I just do. It smells like baseball.
Doug Greenwald, Fresno Grizzlies broadcaster
Managing general partner Chris Cummings: “The ball hitting the bat. It sends chills up and down my spine, and no matter how often I hear it I want to hear it more often.”
Media relations coordinator Paul Braveman: “That it’s designed to be enjoyed every day.”
General manager Derek Franks: “I love listening to the game on the radio, which is weird because I work here at the ballpark and it’s all about the experience. But I grew up listening to the games, and that’s how I fell in love with baseball. It’s just peaceful for me.”
Now that we’ve established that everyone loves baseball, and what they love most, it’s only natural to question whether that love can sometimes be fickle.
Such as, do you still love baseball when you’re in a 1-for-23 slump?
Do you still love baseball when you’re in a 1-for-23 slump?
Or just coughed up the game-winning homer in the ninth?
Or find yourself opening another season at Triple-A, rather than in the major leagues?
White: “There are times when it’s frustrating, sure. It’s like growing up with a brother or a sister. Sometimes you get frustrated at them, but you love them to death. Baseball is kind of the same thing.”
Kemmer: “When you have a bad game it’s always in the back of your mind, ‘Do I really want to do this every day?’ Then you get back to the ballpark the next day and don’t even remember what happened.”
Rodgers: “I might hate it that day or whatever, but then the next day you get to go out and throw a baseball again. What could be better than that?”
Let me answer that one: not much.
Baseball’s back in downtown Fresno, and our collective love affair can spring anew.
TRIPLE-A: FRESNO VS. RENO
- Series: 7:05 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 1:05 p.m. Sunday; 6:35 p.m. Monday at Chukchansi Park
- 2016 records: Grizzlies 73-70 (third in PCL Pacific North); Aces 76-68 (second in Pacific North)
- Radio: KYNO (AM 1430)
- Of note: Houston right-hander Collin McHugh (arm fatigue) will make a rehab start with Fresno to begin the season Thursday. McHugh went 13-10 with a 4.34 ERA and 177 strikeouts in 184.2 innings last season for the Astros. … Diamondbacks top prospect Braden Shipley is scheduled to start for Reno. … A.J. Reed and Preston Tucker might profile as the Grizzlies’ top power threats, but it is Jon Kemmer who hit the most home runs (18) among returning players.