Growlin’ and Meowin’

As we approach the 2015 season, one thing that has been made abundantly clear is that there is no love lost between the Fresno Grizzlies and Sacramento River Cats.

The rivalry between the two Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern Division clubs took an interesting twist upon the conclusion of the 2014 season when the San Francisco Giants severed ties with Fresno, their long-time Triple-A affiliate, in favor of Sacramento. It’s the Minor League Baseball equivalent of getting jilted by a long-time lover in favor of an enticing seductress.

This turn of the events left Fresno scrambling for a new affiliate (the Houston Astros, as it turned out) as well as a new identity. After all, a Giants affiliation was all that the team had ever known. In November, I wrote a piece about the Grizzlies’ marketing strategy in the wake of San Francisco’s departure, which included this quote:

“We’ve started a “Growlifornia”-themed marketing campaign, revolving around our unique California vibe,” said Grizzlies marketing director Sam Hansen. “When California revolted against Mexico [in 1846] it was called the ‘Bear Flag Rebellion.’ That’s why the California state flag has a bear on it. We’re celebrating the Bear Flag Rebellion of 2015, because people here in Fresno feel that rebellious sort of pride. This is our own unique region, and our affiliation with Houston is going to help us get back to those roots.”

Screen_Shot_2015_02_01_at_7.11.02_PM_3aanok86_poh4urz9But then a funny thing happened. In December, the River Cats co-opted a key element of the Grizzlies’ “Growlifornia” campaign by announcing a California state flag theme jersey promotion of their very own. Sacramento is the capital of California, after all. That’s all the justification they needed.

2015_CaliforniaJersey-FB

This River Cats’ promotion did not sit well with the Grizzlies, and a feisty Twitter war between the two clubs ensued.

The Grizzlies may have been bruised by that turn of events, but they were certainly not beaten. River Cats, Schmiver Cats. You want a California flag theme jersey? This is a California flag theme jersey. And, what’s more, it will be worn during the first home stand of the season. Consider the tone set.

The Grizzlies’ theme jersey unveiling came one day after the team posted an open letter from executive vice president Derek Franks, entitled “The Bear Flag Rebellion Begins Now.” A relevant excerpt:

There’s a shift happening around this organization and it’s brought the community together more than ever. No matter what you hear, this team is not a trend or a fad. Fresno Grizzlies baseball is a way of life and one that is unapologetically Central Californian. We’re going to flip the script of what you expect from a Minor League Baseball team this season. Don’t believe us? We’ll prove you otherwise.

And — BREAKING — just before this blog post went to “press” yet another war of the words broke out between these two distinguished entities. Theme jerseys sure are a contentious topic!

Whew! This beef is hotter than a cattle ranch on Venus. Clearly, Fresno is going to remain on the offensive and, clearly, Sacramento aren’t going to back down from a challenge. And when it comes to the River Cats on Twitter, engage at your own risk. During the 2013-14 offseason, the Reno Aces learned this the hard way:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

4 Comments

One thing the River Cats won’t be doing much of after switching to the Giants is looking down on others in the PCL standings. But, I guess the parent club winning a World Series trumps that – a World Series, I should add, the River Cats celebrated without even having played a single game as the Giants affiliate yet.

The River Cats have also loved to trumpet their PCL titles, but it’s going to be tough for them to add to that without the A’s players that had been part of Oakland’s minor league system. As a Giants affiliate, Fresno was almost always at the bottom of the standings.

Minor league teams sniping at each other is amusing, but the River Cats sold out mainly because the Giants have built up a stronger NorCal presence due to more recent success, but the A’s were always good for the success of the River Cats overall.

(By “sold out” I mean selling out to get the Giants affiliation, not selling out the ballpark itself, even though they were always at or right near the top of attendance as an A’s affiliate.)

To the Sacramento “Grumpycats”, the Fresno Grizzlies will ALWAYS be known as the team that produced THREE of the last FIVE World Series Championship WINNING teams as well as the team with longest San Francisco Giants affiliateion. Just because you were lucky enough to have a better flight schedule doesn’t entitle you to the “title”. In your own words “history never dies”. As for the best attendance in the PCL, that will die as soon as you get a few seasons under your belt because in order to make it to the World Series and the big leagues your prized players will be looking over their shoulders and down at you, in last place with the worst records in the PCL. Now before you start saying I’m just a bitter fan I want you to know that I’ll enjoy watching the Fresno Grizzlies tear apart the Whackramento Grumpycats from my season ticket seats because along with a new team affiliation comes the team with one of the BEST minor league teams and players in the PCL. I’ll also enjoy seeing the Growlifornia Rebellion flag knowing that every time you display it you’ll be paying tribute to the Fresno Grizzlies because everyone knows it’s a Grizzly BEAR rebellion NOT a Grumpy Cat in search of the litter box. Let’s GO Fresno Grizzlies!!!

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