Saturday, May 10, 2014

Modesto Nuts

Nuts win! Not the game….they actually lost that to the Stockton Ports 5-2. But the Modesto Nuts do win, in my humble opinion, best team name and logo in the California League. So much you can do with it. Including having a mascot named Wally whose head looks like a giant walnut...or testicle depending on how many beers you have had. Not only does the team sport a nifty moniker it has some decent digs. Nothing swanky or slick, but a typical Single A ballpark that has some interesting history. Including being the Single A ballpark to have had the most Hall of Fame members play in it.

Me and Wally the...uh....Walnut
I love the old parks, and John Thurman Field was built in 1955. Additionally, it was renovated in 1997 and Modesto did a good job of adding some modern amenities while maintaining the original ballpark charm. There is no specially quirkiness that makes it a stand out, just good old-fashioned design that helps fans focus on the plays on the field rather than feel in architectural awe. There is something to be said for showing up at a ballpark and thinking to yourself, “yeah, this is what I expected. Let’s play ball.”

What John Thurman Field does have in its favor is location. It is sandwiched between a 9-hole municipal golf course and a city park. A “park within a park” concept that works well for the facility. More importantly, as the rankings bear out, the Nuts have a very affordable baseball experience accompanied by a good dog. And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Watching a great game, dog in hand without having to sell a kidney to finance it?

Bun-fresh and steamed.
Dog Station
Taste-Sysco provides the dog, although I could never ascertain for certain the manufacturer. Regardless, it was damn tasty.
Toppings-nice selection that was only missing jalapenos. Odd considering the areas demographics.
Portability-nice, large foil sleeve.
Price-at $3.75 a dog (and a nice sized dog at that) feel free to get two.
It Factor-most minor league teams struggle here. Modesto is no exception. Calling it the “Home Run Dog” helps a little, but not much. No outrageous specialty dogs to lure the fans into the park.

Location-not far from downtown and in a nice green park area.
Access-mostly drive-to but one could bike from downtown. Five bucks to park isn’t a crime and free parking can be had in exchange for a short walk.
GA Ticket Price-$7 for a bleacher seat on either baseline is a fair price for a good seat.
Cleanliness-surprisingly, for such an old park it was really clean.
Fans-really large crowd for Single A. I am sure the fireworks lured many in, just as the chilly evening chashed some out. A very lively crowd as well. I think the kids plus sugar factor accounted for some of the screaming though.
Ambiance-you won’t be wowed by John Thurman Field, but do you really want to be? Real seamheads want a baseball stadium, not an amusement park, and the Nuts have done a fine job of keeping it real and pure.

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price5
It Factor2Fans5

A rating of 54 for a California League team is not to be taken lightly. The Nuts put on a great game and worthy of a visit if in central California. And grab some nuts while seeing the Nuts. Did you know that the vast majority of almond production in the world takes place in the region? Now you can stop wondering why the teamed is named The Nuts.

Special thanks to Brian VanderBeek of the Modesto Bee who gave me great insight to the stadium and it’s associated history, as well as some really interesting accounts of his time as a writer for the New York Mets. He interviewed me about my trip and the Bee’s photog captured my best side while eating a dog for their front page (I don’t take a bad picture really). Here is the link to the story in the Bee:

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