2018 file photo
Written by Breanna Hardy
The Fresno Grizzlies announced they will go to bat against the San Jose Giants May 4 to kick off the 2021 baseball season, which was announced Thursday. The Grizzlies, now in affiliation with the Colorado Rockies, will play 120 games – 60 at home and 60 away – from May to September.
The first home game on May 11 will be against the Grizzlies’ new competitor, the Visalia Rawhide, after the Grizzlies became a Single-A team in a league-wide shakeup. The home opener is the start of a 12-game homestand — one of two such homestands this season.
The season will make the first time since 2019 that the teams have taken the field. The 2020 Minor League Season was canceled due to the pandemic.
Travel will also look a little different this year. Teams will play 6-game series every Tuesday through Sunday with Monday being a league-wide off day.
Sam Sigal, president and co-owner of the Visalia Rawhide, said they are still sorting out how home games will look for fans this year, as it will depend on restrictions when the time comes in May.
“We’re prepared to be flexible around our options,” Sigal said. “Our main concern is to do what’s safe, an we’ve been very lucky that the Tulare County health department has been so transparent.”
Sigal and his family bought the team at the beginning of 2020, and then Covid-19 hit. But he said nothing that’s happened in the past year has diminished the excitement for the 2021 season.
May 4 will mark the first game of the season, and the first game as owner of the Visalia Rawhide. He and his family have lived in Visalia for under two years after moving from New York.
Asked about the new Valley competition this year, Sigal said, “I think that could not be any more exciting as far as I’m concerned.”
He said fans are excited about creating a fun Central Valley rivalry between Visalia and Fresno.
“Because it’s minor league, everything is about the fun,” he said. “It’s very exciting and we are quite ready for it.”
From the point of view of Major League Baseball, this also marks a return to normalcy when it comes to player development.
“This schedule represents a big step forward for our player development system. Under this new alignment and format, travel will be significantly reduced for players and coaches, with an increase in off days. We hope that these new health and wellness improvements will help players in their path to the big leagues,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations.
The Grizzlies will formally announce its affiliation with the Rockies on Feb. 24. Exact game times, ticket sales, and promotional schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.
“The 2021 Minor League Baseball season will preserve the unique local traditions and the affordable fun and excitement that fans have loved for generations, while introducing more ways for fans to engage with their favorite team. As we strengthen player development, teams will continue to do what they always have: making games fun. We can’t wait for Minor League Baseball’s Opening Days in ballparks across the country,” Sword said.