Good Sports: Ping pong table livens up Grizzlies locker room

FRESNO, Calif.

It's four hours before first pitch at Chukchansi Park and the Fresno Grizzlies are about to play their 139th game in less than five months.

"It's a grind. We don't get many days off and we're at the field from 1 o'clock to 11 o'clock every night," Grizzlies pitcher Dan Otero said.

That's a lot of time for anywhere from 40-to-50 grown men to spend with each other, so to break up the monotony of the season this year's team took to table tennis.

"I thought I was pretty good, and obviously everybody from where they come from thinks they're good. You kind of weed them out and see who the best ones are. And it's good competition," Grizzlies pitcher Clayton Tanner said.

It began in April when the clubhouse attendant asked Fresno Manager Bob Mariano if he could wheel in the ping pong table.

"I wanted them to do it. So they come in and relieve some tension and just have some fun coming to the ballpark," Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano said.

But these are professional athletes and it didn't take long for the games to get ultra-competitive.

"It hasn't gone over the top which is good. Nobody's gotten too mad. There's been a couple thrown paddles but nothing too intense. No lost friendships or anything so it's been good," Tanner said.

"There's actually more trash talking from the people that aren't playing. Which is kind of amusing at times. People that aren't very good just sit on the sidelines and they're the ones that trash talk the most," Otero said.

There are obviously standouts on the roster. Pitcher Dan Otero has a ruthless reputation.

"You wouldn't be here if you're not a competitor so no matter what you do you want to win," Otero said.

But it doesn't stop there - the Grizzlies even have scouting reports on different players.

"You have to, especially when you start playing the Americans versus the Latins. You've got country bragging rights on the line," Tanner said.

And although ping-pong's status as a training tool is debatable - "I know Brock Bond plays a lot and he says it helps him with his hand-eye coordination. And he's hitting .340 this year," Otero said.

The Grizzlies say ping pong has made the season that much better, probably because their manager has avoided taking part.

"I haven't been out there. I'd like to find out who the champion is and maybe take them on later," Mariano said.

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