San Francisco Giants: The Road To The Show

Mar 21, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Mac Williamson (51) signs autographs for fans prior to the game against the Oakland Athletics at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Mac Williamson (51) signs autographs for fans prior to the game against the Oakland Athletics at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

With San Francisco Giants baseball nearly upon us, the roster is all set. There is plenty of talent waiting in the wings down on the farm, and here’s a look at the teams that will send players to the San Francisco Giants during the 2016 MLB season.

The lineups have been set. The tickets have been sold. The peanuts have been stocked. It’s time for baseball.

While there is a myriad of great Giants season preview articles out there, this isn’t one of them. Within this piece, none of the big guys will be mentioned. No heavy-hitters, playoff chases, or division rivalry will be broken down. This article is a rundown of the little guys.

This article is a run down of the little guys. The teams that get little to no credit from the mainstream media, or the average fans. This one is for the true fans, the ones who want to know even more about their team, or simply just add to their trivia contest repertoire.

The San Francisco Giants, an MLB team, have a farm system. Without getting too technical, we’ll just point out that there are five main tiers of the minor leagues.  The Giants sign contracts individually with a team at each level, to form a partnership in which players are sent to and from these small-time teams throughout their season and the Giants’ season.

In turn, the minor league team benefits by being able to promote future big-league talent at their games when selling tickets. There are many independent baseball leagues in the United States, and having a big-league partner makes your small organization stand out amongst the crowd.

The first stop on a young player’s road to McCovey Cove is in Keizer, Oregon. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, who share the name of two cities because Salem is a large metropolitan area just down the road from Keizer, have been the Giants Short-Season A affiliate since first erupting in 1997. The area had a rich baseball history, dating back to the 1940’s with the Salem Senators franchise.

The Volcanoes play at a stadium just off of I-5, a major highway in the area, and are celebrating their 20th anniversary as a team this season. Salem-Keizer, the first real taste of minor league baseball a young player gets in their career, proudly boasts an explosive list of alumnus, including Buster Posey, Sergio Romo, and Joe Panik.

While the 4,254 seat Volcanoes Stadium may be a far cry in terms of atmosphere and size from downtown San Francisco on the cove, there’s no doubt any rookie would be elated to get his start as a slugger here. There’s also no doubt that their Volcano logo is MAD.

Once a young player has proven themselves worthy, they will get a call, and a bus ticket to Augusta, Georgia. The Augusta GreenJackets have been around since 1980 and have been the A-level team for the Giants since 2005.

That logo of theirs is something that needs to be seen, as it demonstrates their creativity. They are the GreenJackets because it sounds like yellow jacket, a common name for the terrifying insects known as wasps, but also because they play in Augusta, Georgia. This happens to be home to the Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts The Masters each spring. The winner of the tournament dons a legendary green jacket, and there you have it. Certainly one of the more creative names in the minors.

The GreenJackets have had plenty of well-known Giants on their team, from Pablo Sandoval to Madison Bumgarner.

Assuming our youngster has dazzled in Salem-Keizer and now Augusta, they will be called up and handed a Giants uniform.

Ok, so not THOSE Giants. The San Jose Giants have been the San Francisco Giants Advanced A-level affiliate since 1988. There is a rich history of baseball in San Jose, with the San Jose Missions being active throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. The current San Jose team plays in San Jose, California, which is only about an hour south of San Francisco.

San Jose has also had their fair share of major league talent come through, with over 100 MLB players having played for the lower-level Giants at some point during their careers. The San Jose Giants use the same color scheme and logos as their MLB-affiliate, and even going as far to have the same styled interlocking SJ logo just like the “SF” used by the Giants.

Once a young prospect does well at this level, they are sent on one of the longer journeys in the minor leagues, to the AA level.

The Richmond Flying Squirrels are one of the most popular teams in the minor leagues and for good reason. Check out their logo, which has to be seen to be believed. The name itself is pretty crazy and beat out other crazy names like Rock Hoppers, Rhinos, and Hush Puppies in a team naming contest. Richmond has had a long history of baseball, dating back to Yankees and Braves-affiliated teams in the 1970’s.

Once the Richmond Braves moved to Georgia in 2009, there was a gap that the Flying Squirrels filled. The Giants AA team, the Connecticut Defenders relocated to Richmond in 2010. Ever since, Richmond has had one of the best-selling caps in all of the minors, and one of the most talked about names. They have only been in Richmond, Virginia long enough to host some of the younger Giants, like Panik and Kelby Tomlinson.

Now things are getting serious. If you impress at the AA level, you get a ticket back to the west coast. Not to San Francisco yet, but Sacramento.

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  • The Sacramento River Cats represent not only the final stop on the road to the show but a dedication to baseball demonstrated by Sacramento for over 100 years. The Sacramento Solons were founding members of the PCL in 1903, and the River Cats now have taken that role as the only original PCL city still hosting a baseball team. The River Cats came to Sacramento in 2000, being moved from Vancouver.

    For 14 years, they were the Oakland Athletics’ AAA team, seeing the likes of Barry Zito, Eric Chavez, and Josh Donaldson come up through Sacramento. Going into the 2015 season, the River Cats signed an affiliation contract with the San Francisco Giants. The Giants had previously been with the Fresno Grizzlies for over a decade.

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    This move was met with excitement from the local Giants fans of course, and culminated in last week’s matchup between the Giants and River Cats in Sacramento. The fans have certainly proved their enthusiasm for baseball in Sacramento, having led all of minor league baseball in attendance for eight years in a row upon relocating there, and maintaining a high attendance every year since.

    Given a stellar performance with the River Cats, and a need for the position in the majors, a kid can finally get called up for their major league debut with the San Francisco Giants, having successfully traversed the road to the show.