FRESNO, California.- Back 20 years ago Fresno Grizzlies Founder John Carbray called his friend Stan Oken and asked him this question: Stan, do you think Fresno is ready for a Triple-A baseball team? Oken’s response was quick and without hesitation.
“I said ‘John you gotta come to Fresno, let’s talk,” said Oken. “For Fresno that was a home run, it was tremendous. I remember the first years were amazing.”
The Grizzles would become a reality in Fresno in 1998 and would play at the Fresno Bulldog Stadium until 2002 when the Grizzlies would finally play in a custom-built stadium in the heart of Fresno, downtown.
This move sparked quite the controversy, and not all city officials agree the stadium should be placed in the heart of the city, but Carbray had a vision and he was going to fight for it.
“He was a promoter. A visionary. A fighter. he fought hard for what he believed and wasn’t about to give up on anything,” said Oken who would go on to serve as the Grizzlies Advisory Board Chair for over a decade.
Although it wasn’t easy, Carbray made it happen with the help of all of his family and friends behind him. Soon his vision became a reality and the stadium came to life. Sparking a revitalization downtown in the forms of new businesses.
“So the stadium was the spark of all of that,” said Councilmember Garry Bredefeld. “Now we have half a million people who visit the stadium each year. It has been a tremendous community asset for 20 years and Mr. Carbray was a part of that.”
Carbray’s legacy will always be remembered as a courageous baseball owner with a tenacious spirit.
“He had a tough struggle getting it,” said Oken. “But I believe he can look back and say ‘okay I got it done”