Astros News

Fresno Grizzlies: Who Are They & Why Do Astros Fans Care?

brenemil
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When I heard that the Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate was moving to Fresno, my first thought was: that’s great, they’re back in Texas.

Then, of course, I realized they weren’t talking about Fresno, Texas, located only 30 miles southwest of Houston. Apparently, that fair city was not considered as host city when the Astros lost the Oklahoma City deal to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It seemed like a great idea to me. So they don’t have a suitable stadium; Jim Crane can build one for them, right? How convenient would it be to have the team so close to Minute Maid Park that player moves could be accomplished by car? No airports, plane rides, or long drives. You want to call someone up? Call a cab and he’ll be here in an hour or less.

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No, sadly, now the team in the Pacific Coast League, once called The Express, then the RedHawks, will now be the Fresno (California) Grizzlies. It was bad enough when they picked up and moved from Round Rock to Oklahoma, but now 1800 miles away to that foreign state of California?

Maybe we were spoiled by years of having the Astros top minor league team in Round Rock, less than an hour from my house. We spent many a summer evening from 2005 through 2011 at the beautiful Dell Diamond, watching the Astros version of the Express. We can still go to the same stadium and watch the Express, it’s just now they belong to the Texas Rangers. It’s not the same in Round Rock without the home club being the Astros. Even the hot dogs don’t taste right anymore.

I wore a Rangers hat to an Express game last summer. The guy next to me was not amused.

“Why are you wearing that hat?” he said with a frown on his face.

“This is a Rangers farm club now,” I said defensively.

“This is still Astros country,” he growled.

“I know,” I told him. “I feel exactly the same way.”

“This hot dog is horrible,” he said, shaking his head in disgust.

We miss watching Astros prospects at the Dell Diamond. Okay, well, back in those days, there weren’t many actual prospects playing for the Express. They were mostly men past their prime; too old for single or double-A, and not skilled enough to make the Astros. But they were Astros farm hands, in Astros country, and we loved it.

Rio Ruiz will likely wear a Fresno Grizzlies uniform. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, George Springer and Jon Singleton, guys that should have been playing for the Astros version of the Express, played in Round Rock with the Oklahoma City RedHawks (former big leaguer Manny Ramirez was in the Express lineup that night). The crowd went crazy when Springer hit two homers, a triple, and a single, and Singleton hit a double; proof where the allegiance lies.

Many Round Rock fans are still Astros fans, like the guy that scolded me for wearing a Rangers hat. Now, the Astros have for the first time in many years, legitimate prospects, and with this move to California, we have no chance to see these guys play in Triple-A. In 2015, the Grizzlies will play in Round Rock exactly zero times.

One might think that Astros President Reid Ryan, former CEO of Ryan-Sanders Baseball, Inc. (owners of the Round Rock Express), son of Astros legend Nolan Ryan, could figure out a way to return Astros Triple-A baseball to Texas and the Dell Diamond. I’m not so sure about that guy.

But who am I to judge? I’m just a diehard Astros fan.

As far as Astros fans are concerned, Fresno, California may as well be on the dark side of the Moon. Our up and coming guys like Carlos Correa and Rio Ruiz will play in a Fresno Grizzlies uniform, not what they should be wearing – Round Rock Express colors.

What happens the next time the Astros have to change minor league cities? Will they end up in Coos Bay, Bangor, or some other God forsaken place?

Bring our guys back to Round Rock, where they belong.

Next: Rio Ruiz or Colin Moran: Who's Better?

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