It’s a Fresno thing to do: Grab a beer, some tacos and watch Grizzlies baseball

New Fresno Grizzlies uniform colors unveiled Tuesday night

The new Fresno Grizzlies uniform colors were unveiled at an event held at Maya Cinemas Tuesday night, Jan. 29, 2019 in Fresno.
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The new Fresno Grizzlies uniform colors were unveiled at an event held at Maya Cinemas Tuesday night, Jan. 29, 2019 in Fresno.

A new era begins Thursday for the Fresno Grizzlies when the Triple A baseball team kicks off its 2019 season as an affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

Gone are the orange-and-black uniforms from when the Grizzlies were a San Francisco Giants franchise (1998-2014), followed by the Houston Astros for four years. Now the team colors are red, black, gold and beige.

That’s not all that’s new. Team owner Fresno Sports and Events LLC pledged $3.4 million in improvements to Chukchansi Park. Among the new features: A walk-up bar and mingle area along third base and left field the team calls “Fresno Social.” Fans who get restless sitting for the whole game can stroll over to Fresno Social, order a drink and watch the action standing up, or sitting in bar-style furniture.

Another new element sure to be a hit with young families: a 1,500 square foot water park in right field called Splash Zone. It will be particularly popular during the depth of summer when daytime temperatures are typically 100 degrees or hotter. The zone, like Fresno Social, is open to any fan.

Fresno Grizzlies pitcher James Hoyt, center, celebrates with teammates after recording the final out of a 7-3 victory over Round Rock in Game 5 in Game 5 of the 2015 Pacific Coast League championship series at Chukchansi Park. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA Fresno Bee file

Improvements have also been made to the park’s Kodiak Club, the second-level bar and restaurant open to club members or those who purchase single-game club tickets. One new aspect: An all-you-can-eat buffet for each game.

Among the food items being added this year is the Uncle Bear B-Q, which features smoked barbecue dishes. It will be located on the third base side of the park.

The manual scoreboard has received a facelift, and protective netting to catch foul balls is along the sides in a second season of use.

What hasn’t changed is the view of the outfield and the skyline beyond. The sight of Fulton Street shops and downtown just beyond the park is picturesque.

Then there is the park itself, especially in the delightful spring months: Blue sky, expanse of green grass, the bright white chalk forming the foul lines. And the sounds that are uniquely baseball: The crack of the bat, the thump of a fastball into the catcher’s mitt, the spectators’ roar as a home run leaves the park.

Then there is the hugely popular Taco Tuesdays, when the team embraces its alter ego as the Fresno Tacos and the Mexican dish is enjoyed en masse.

As a Triple A franchise, the Grizzlies feature minor leaguers who are just one rung below the majors. So future big-league stars get their start at places like Fresno.

After a hectic workday, there’s no better place to unwind, grab some dinner and take in America’s pastime.

It all begins anew Thursday evening in downtown Fresno when the home plate ump shouts “Play ball!”