Top 5 Black Players in Fresno Grizzlies History
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club. While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club.
While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers or, in some cases, just one incredible season that went down as “a year for the ages.”
Here is a look at five of the best Black baseball players ever to suit up for the Fresno Grizzlies:
Fred Lewis was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft out of HBCU Southern University and A&M College. Lewis dominated the lower levels of the Giants system before being called up to Fresno for a cup of coffee in 2004. After that quick stint, Lewis would make it back to the Grizzlies for the 2006 season. Over 120 games, Lewis batted .276 with an .828 OPS and at the time, a single-season, franchise-record 11 triples. His season was extended as he earned a September call-up to the Giants. In 2007, Lewis split time with Fresno and the Giants, appearing in a combined 100 games with a .290 batting average. Lewis’ last stint in Fresno came in 2010, playing in seven games. Lewis finished his career in 2015, but was known as a crowd favorite among both Grizzlies and Giants fans.
Tony Kemp was selected by the Houston Astros in the 5th round of the 2013 draft out of baseball powerhouse Vanderbilt University. Kemp vaulted through the lower levels of the Houston system before reaching Fresno during the middle of the 2015 season. For the next couple of years, Kemp would bounce between the Grizzlies and Astros. When he donned the F-slash, Kemp was unstoppable. Over four seasons (2015-18) with the Grizzlies, Kemp appeared in 296 games, slashing .312/.373/.425. He also ranks in the Top 10 of four different offensive categories for Grizzlies career records. He is first in triples (21), fourth in steals (67), eighth in runs (206) and 10th in hits (372). Despite multiple trades and teams, Kemp is still talked about as one of the biggest and kindest-hearted players to ever play for the Fresno Grizzlies.
Calvin Murray was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 1st round of the 1989 draft, but decided to not sign and take his talents to the University of Texas. Three years later, the San Francisco Giants drafted Murray with the 7th overall pick and he signed. Murray was a part of the first 1998 Fresno Grizzlies team after spending a couple of seasons with the Phoenix Firebirds. He would spend three seasons in Fresno (1998-99, 2001), with the major chunk of it coming in 1999. In that year, Murray would go on to win the PCL Most Valuable Player, one of only two Grizzlies to ever earn those honors. Murray played 130 games, racking up 183 hits, 297 total bases and scoring 122 runs. The latter three statistics are all single-season Grizzlies records. Murray also stole 42 bases and batted .334 (top 10 single-season marks). That season will go down as one of the best offensive displays in Grizzlies history, despite it being only the second year of the Grizzlies' existence. Besides that, Murray is known as the batter facing Randy Johnson when Johnson hit a dove with a fastball in a spring training game in 2001 and is the uncle of NFL Quarterback Kyler Murray.
Emmanuel Burriss was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 1st round of the 2006 draft out of Kent State University. Burriss spent his first couple of seasons at the Single-A Level before making the leap to Fresno in 2008. After two weeks-worth of games, Burriss had his contract selected by the Giants. For the next four years, Burriss would split time between the Central Valley and the Bay Area. He enjoyed a couple of bright spots over those four years, which included being San Francisco’s youngest Opening Day starting second baseman (2009) since Robbie Thompson back in 1986. In 2011, Burriss batted .297 over 45 games with the Grizzlies, stealing 24 bases and scoring 31 times. Most notably, he swiped a Grizzlies franchise-record four bags on April 8th against the Las Vegas 51s. Burriss finished his Fresno career playing 172 games over five seasons and became one of the best do-it-all players in Grizzlies history.
Jalal Leach was selected by the New York Yankees in the 7th round of the 1990 draft out of Pepperdine University. After playing for eight years and a trio of teams, Leach still hadn’t cracked the big leagues. At that point, he was offered a coaching position by Brian Sabean, despite still wanting to play. After some roster moves, Leach was activated as a player and would head to Fresno for the next four years, which included joining the 1998 Grizzlies club. Over those four seasons, Leach became one of the most lethal bats in the Pacific Coast League and Grizzlies history. He finished his Fresno career with four Top-10 franchise records, which included homers (8th, 52), triples (6th, 15), doubles (7th, 73) and RBI (7th, 216). The culmination of his determination and prowess at the plate earned him his long-awaited call-up to the Giants in 2001. Leach is the definition of Farm Grown in Fresno.