Grizzlies celebrate 20th anniversary in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 1998 marked a less than picture perfect start for the Fresno Grizzlies. Without a stadium they played at Beiden Field for four seasons. But fans starved for triple-a baseball didn't seem to mind.

Diane and John Carbray were part of the Fresno Diamond Group which brought the Grizzlies to town.

"We sold 3,000 season tickets with no stadium and no team --so Fresno was ready and it's proven it 20 years later," said Diane.

Once a downtown site was determined these sandlot sluggers knew change was coming. 2002 marked another milestone-- the opening of Grizzlies Stadium, though the team spent the first month on the road to make sure the ballpark was done.

"I just watched people come in and you could see their jaws drop. I don't know if they thought a green cathedral like that could really be in Fresno and now it was theirs to enjoy," said Diane.

Diane wishes vehicle traffic ran through the Fulton Mall decades ago.

Grizzlies General Manager Derek Franks figures if you will open it up they will come.

"We think it's a huge, huge impact for us in the next few years downtown."

This year's Grizzlies roster is stacked with Houston Astros prospects.

Franks said Thursday's home opener will include a special celebration.

"It's the biggest opening ceremony that we've ever planned-- going back 20 years to relive some of the memories from Beiden Field in 1998. We've got a lot of special guests."

Chris Cummings heads the ownership group which bought the team in 2005.

The original mascot, Wild Thing, will be at Chukchansi Park tomorrow as the Grizzlies celebrate 20 years in Fresno. Opening night promises to be extra special.
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