Amid an affiliation change and a new marketing strategy that focuses on Fresno, the Grizzlies are turning to a Valley native to spearhead the re-branding of the Triple-A team.
Derek Franks, a Fresno State grad who was born in Avenal and raised in Kingsburg, was announced Thursday as the new general manager.
Franks, 30, has worked for the Grizzlies since he was a box office intern in 2004 and is their first GM since Andrew Stuebner was dismissed following the 2010 season. Promoted from executive vice president, Franks throughout last season essentially headed the Grizzlies for General Managing Partner and Team President Chris Cummings.
“He’s truly a homegrown leader and we’re proud of the fact that we haven’t imported someone from outside of the region,” Cummings said. “He’s someone from within. He’s committed himself to the organization.
“He’s become the trusted person within the organization. His strategic decisions over the last several months have been instrumental with where we are today.”
The Grizzlies changed parent-club affiliations this offseason after the San Francisco Giants moved their Triple-A team to Sacramento after 17 seasons. The Grizzlies then signed a two-year Player Development Contract to serve as the Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate.
The changed affiliation, however, left the Grizzlies with an identity crisis of sorts after latching much of their appeal toward being the developing grounds of future Giants players.
Rather than market themselves as an Astros’ affiliate, the Grizzlies are concentrating on promoting Fresno.
“I have much love and respect for both the affiliates we’ve had,” Franks said. “But at the end of the day, I’m from Fresno. Not from San Francisco. Not from Texas. This has always been about Fresno.”
Among the subtle re-branding changes is wearing “Fresno” across the front of players’ jerseys rather than the team’s name. The Grizzlies also have started a “Growlifornia” marketing campaign that celebrates the central San Joaquin Valley and how the Grizzlies are not affiliated with any of the major league clubs in California.
“One of the things I’ve always wanted is that it be about Fresno first,” Franks said. “Because it’s our community and why they built the stadium here to begin with — to make Fresno a better place.
“We’re building this ‘Growlifornia’ marketing plan. It really speaks toward being unapologetically Fresno. We’re really excited about making our city so proud and at the forefront.”