Results tagged ‘ Modesto Nuts ’
When I am on these Minor League road trips I have become accustomed to showing up at a ballpark and being told “Too bad you’re here on a [insert day of the week]. Our best days are [insert different day of the week].” But when I arrived at Modesto’s John Thurman Field on a recent Tuesday, Nuts GM Mike Gorrasi took this familiar sentiment into bold new territory.
“Of the 70 games in which you could have attended, this would have been my 70th choice,” he said.
This is because Modesto schools, due to some Un-American-seeming directive that may or may not have a valid justification behind it, were starting the very next day. When the first day of school looms families aren’t exactly inclined to take the kids to a Minor League Baseball game, but the sparse attendance certainly didn’t detract from my time at the ballpark. Far from it! John Thurman Field is a relatively no-frills facility, but regardless of whether or not the school year is looming ominously it’s certainly worth visiting and I hope that the remainder of this post adequately justifies this sentiment.
I didn’t have a compass on me, but I’m pretty sure that I entered the stadium while walking in a westerly direction.
Meanwhile, next door in the press box, onfield emcee Michael “Mike on the Mic” Smith was deep in conversation with a man who was asleep. Nothing can stop Mike on the Mic!
At this juncture I was with Nuts front office staffer Robert Moulette, who told me “I have to escort you to your chariot.” The meaning behind this cryptic statement shall soon be revealed, but until then please enjoy the photos I took while being escorted to said chariot.
Moulette and I then passed beyond the left field fence, where the chariot was revealed.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 7, 2013
A 1959 Corvette! The Nuts had arranged for me to ride the Corvette en route to the mound for a ceremonial first pitch.
The Corvette came out of left field, but this first pitch delivery method didn’t come out of left field. As famously depicted in the 1973 George Lucas film American Graffiti, Modesto is a hotbed of classic car culture and every year the city hosts an “American Graffiti Car Show and Festival (George Lucas was the grand marshal at this year’s edition). The Nuts, for their part, annually host a Graffiti Night promotion and as such they have copious contacts within the classic car community.
The owner and driver of the car was a friendly, soft-spoken man by the name of Gene Carranza. He told me that cars were a post-retirement hobby of his, and that he’d restored the Corvette himself. I felt like a doofus being driven around like some sort of beauty queen or politician, but this was a great experience and certainly a very memorable way to be transported to the mound.
The first pitch itself was not so memorable, as I bounced it (I am now suffering from a full-on case of ceremonial first pitch Steve Blass disease).
The game was about to begin, and on a more representative night the ballpark would have looked like this.
But all things considered, the crowd wasn’t too sparse. Maybe 69 nights are better (they generally are), but it was a beautiful evening and time for some California League baseball.
Some Modestans opted to spend their evening amid the company of smaller balls, however.
With the game underway, I retreated to the private suite so that I could rendezvous with the evening’s designated eaters (you know, the individuals recruited to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).
Welcome, Joe and Bonnie Price!
You may remember Joe from one of my Fresno dispatches, when he sang both the first and fourth stanzas of the Star Spangled Banner. He sang the National Anthem in Modesto as well and then went on to Stockton the next day and did it again. In the above photo he and Bonnie are wearing “Anthem Tour” shirts, which commemorate their season-long 2011 road trip during which Joe sang the National Anthem at over 100 ballparks.
But with singing duties complete, Joe and Bonnie were now free to sample the finest cuisine that John Thurman Field has to offer. They were joined in this endeavor by Jon Fischer, a good friend of mine dating back to middle school who showed up in Modesto simply so he could experience the ramshackle nightly improvisation that is the Ben’s Biz traveling roadshow. Jon now lives in San Francisco, where he teaches, curates art shows, blogs about his various creative endeavors, and wears t-shirts that display startling amounts of chest hair.
Within moments, this unlikely triumvirate of gluten-tolerant suite denizens was faced with the following.
Have at it, guys.
As for what they were having at, the Super Pretzel is a jumbo pretzel whose negative space is filled with a variety of meat toppings (BBQ chicken, pulled pork, and tri-tip). Chili and nacho cheese is served on the side, resulting in an “appetizer” that could serve as a meal and then some. The general consensus was that the meat toppings were well-seasoned and appropriately succulent, and the flavor of the chili surprisingly complex given that it was served in a plastic cup like some standard-issue condiment. The pretzel didn’t fare as well in the taste testing, however, as its best days (or day) seemed to be behind it.
“The pretzel is a little dried out,” said Jon.
“You’re not supposed to hear yourself eat it,” added Bonnie.
But on the whole the Super Pretzel was positively received, because on the holes were very tasty toppings. Pretzels have been a hard thing for me to give up in these post-gluten days, but there was no time to mourn. Because in addition to the Super Pretzel there was this:
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 7, 2013
As that comically inept Vine more or less conveys, this was nothing more and nothing less than bacon on a stick. Or, more specifically, bacon with brown sugar, maple syrup, and BBQ sauce. A product of Modesto’s Greens Market, it is thick, juicy, tender and altogether spectacular, one of the best concession items that I sampled all season. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a photo with just the bacon because my presence, it only detracts.
Leaving Joe, Bonnie and John within their luxury digs, I headed back down to the concourse in order to investigate a certain piece of signage.
This feline radio station mascot is surprisingly apprehensive and contemplative looking, not as fiercely resolute as one would expect. This KAT, like mainstream country in general, seems to suffering from an identity crisis. (The formula: pay hollow lip service to the legacy of Hank Williams while creating music that sacrifices Hank’s emotional complexity in favor of uber-condescending “pick-up truck, chewing tobacco, swimming hole and bonfire party” pop constructs that sound as if they were written by city slickers who’ve made a living on the conceit that the rubes don’t know any better. Rise up!)
And speaking of signage, here’s a concession stand pricing rundown. (The Super Pretzel was a suite-only item, I believe, while the bacon on a stick is available elsewhere in the facility.)
My lackluster signage investigations didn’t last for long, as I soon returned to the field of play.
And — look! — it’s Mike on the Mic!
Mike’s name may not be original, but he is.
“I’m aware of two other Mike on the Mics [in Minor League Baseball], but I consider myself to be the most unique,” said Mike, now in his fourth season. “I’m just a man of the people, and make sure everyone’s having a good time. I have more energy and enthusiasm than anyone I know.”
Mike and the on-field promo crew had invited me to be a part of the next on-field promotion, launching t-shirts into the crowd via slingshot. This is an activity that I deeply enjoy.
Al and Wally were on the field with me, but apparently they are a couple of omniscient nuts. The legume duo were up in the suite when I returned, engaging in one of their patented mascot dance parties.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 7, 2013
They were also engaging in what can only be described as shenanigans.
Being force-fed bacon on a stick by an anthropomorphic nut isn’t exactly my idea of a good time (although it is pretty close), so I headed back out for a bit more wandering and almost immediately ran into this character.
That’s ballhawk Nick Badders, a Bay Area native who was on his way to snagging a career-best 13 baseballs on the evening. I had never written about a Minor League ballhawk before, so I rectified that situation by composing an MiLB.com piece about Nick and his hobby. You can read that HERE, and then you can go ahead and check out Nick’s account of the evening HERE (he even has a Vine video of me bouncing my ceremonial first pitch).
After interviewing Nick I was re-joined by Mike on the Mic, who was once again including me as part of the between-inning proceedings.
I was a contestant in a videoboard trivia contest. A clip from a movie (American Graffiti, naturally) was shown on the screen, and I was then tasked with answering a question regarding what it was that I had just seen.
The answer, I did not know, so there was nothing to do but grin and bear it as I suffered what was approximately my 125th ballpark failure of the season.
Back in the suite I alleviated my frustration via the consumption of pulled pork on a tapioca-based gluten-free bun.
You can see Bonnie enjoying some St. Louis-style ribs there in the background. Jon, meanwhile, was enjoying them in the foreground.
The ribs were a popular item, and Bonnie, pointing to a stain on her shirt, lauded them for their “decorative appeal.” Joe, meanwhile, raved about the this chicken wrap.
“One of the good things about the wrap is that it’s not simply lettuce, it’s radicchio,” he said. “It adds more body and flavor and adds a crunchy nip to it. Not a full bite, just a nip.”
Given that the Nuts are named the Nuts I was expecting the Nuts to have voluminous amounts of Nuts throughout the ballpark. This wasn’t exactly the case, although they did produce these limited edition delicacies when they hosted the 2011 California vs. Carolina League All-Star Game.
I then stuck around for an inning on the radio with Nuts broadcaster Alex Margulies.
By the time I returned to our palatial estate, said ragtag group was well into a dessert of “chimis” (cheesecake, raspberry and dulce de leche) and baked smores.
My documentation skills were starting to wane at this juncture of the evening, but please let it be known that Bonnie exalted the Raspberry Chimis above the Dulce De Leche because the latter was “sweet on top of sweet” and hence too sweet.
Also let it be known that a baseball game transpired during the course of all of this nonsense. The hometown team, desirous of victory, emerged with just this.
And with the cessation of play comes the cessation of this blog post. Take it away, Mike on the Mic!
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 7, 2013
Thanks, Mike on the Mic. Ben on the Blog is now over and out.
For mascots, there’s no escaping the spotlight. These mute yet endlessly expressive characters are the center of attention everywhere they go, and as a result they always need to be “on.” Pictures are requested, high fives demanded, and antics expected. It’s an exhilarating existence, to be sure, but not at all conducive to moments of quiet reflection and self-analysis.
Yet such moments, while rare, do occur. To capture them on camera is an exhilarating feeling, akin to a landlocked bird watcher getting an glimpse of the elusive Red Phalarope. This is how I felt during a June trip to Lake County, when I was able to capture Captains mascot Skipper in a moment of introspection.
Feeling inspired by this rare bit of photographic luck, I asked readers to please send in introspective mascot photos of their own. This request was met with an enthusiastic response, and the results are contained in this post.
What follows is the most impressive collection of introspective mascot photos that the world has ever seen.
The above individual is Louie of the Great Lakes Loons, whose powers of introspection are far greater than the average bird. Soon after abandoning his dugout perch, he went into the stands and got the fans to join him in a moment of quiet contemplation.
Another city boasting thoughtful birds amongst its citizenry is Toledo. Muddy the Mud Hen is a voracious reader, and can sometimes be spotted at the local library with his beak buried in a good book.
Muddy’s literary endeavors have increased his powers of imagination. Back at the ballpark, he sometimes gets lost in thought while resting his left arm on a railing that doesn’t even exist.
As evidenced by the picture of Skipper at the top of this post, ballpark tunnels represent a good place for a mascot to temporarily escape from the madding crowd. Here’s Phinley of the Clearwater Threshers, patriotically pontificating.
Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, Bolt takes a moment to reflect before instigating some between-inning hula-baloo.
They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but I was able to get a shot of Bolt during my visit to Winston-Salem this past July. This one is perhaps less “introspective” than “fatigued.”
While in Winston-Salem, I spent time with not one but TWO blog readers who went on to email me introspective mascot photos. Matt “Possum” Campbell solicited this shot of the Danville Braves’ “Blooper,” who does his best thinking with left hand planted firmly on stomach.
Meanwhile, veteran Minor League wanderer Rex Doane sent in pictures from various far-flung locales. Our journey with Rex begins in Norfolk, where Rip Tide sometimes assumes a near-beatific demeanor.
Then we fly over to flyover country, with this behind-the-back view of Swoop of the South Bend Silver Hawks.
And, finally, we arrive in the modest environs of the Modesto Nuts’ dugout. That’s where Al Almond sometimes goes in order to escape from the nuttiness surrounding him.
Another thoughtful dugout denizen is Fort Wayne’s Johnny TinCap, whose demeanor is never crotchety even if his hobbies sometimes are.
Of course, one doesn’t need to be solitary to be introspective. Over the three seasons that the team has been in existence, Chopper of the Gwinnett Braves has established himself as one of the most empathetic woodchucks in the Minors. Here he is having an on-field heart-to-heart.
Chopper’s upright demeanor is in stark contrast to Millie of the Lowell Spinners. On the last day of the season, this canal-dwelling alligator went deep into her own headspace while sitting on a stadium bench.
Allie’s daughter, Millie, simply curled up in the fetal position in order to think long and hard about the season that had just transpired.
With this concept on the verge of collapse, it seems that I’ll have to call it a day. Of course, keeping sending those introspective mascot photos in. I am totally amenable to there being a second, third, fourth, and even fifth installment of this series.
There will be no sixth installment.
The more things change, the more things stay the same.
Last year, Jerry Lawler visited Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium and delivered a devastating clothesline to a foolhardy cauliflower. You may recall the image, seeing how it was indelible.
This year’s notable wrestling guest was Sunny, famed diva and member of the WWE Hall of Fame. And this time, the clothesline victim was Evil Candy (a longtime nutritional adversary of Cauliflower).
Sunny was joined by noted ECW grappler “The Blue Meanie.”
Being interviewed by Channel 69:
Prior to the game, Sunny and the Blue Meanie visited the R-Phils’ clubhouse. This picture is disintegrating right before our eyes, a reminder of life’s ephemeral nature.
While in the locker room, Sunny must have taken a liking to R-Phils backstop Tim Kennelly. In a post-game interview with R-Phils director of media relations Tommy Viola, Sunny refers to the “so-cute” Kennelly as her “future ex-husband” and expresses a desire for some personal coaching (the Blue Meanie, meanwhile, reveals himself to be a fan of Matt “Roast Beef” Rizzotti).
And, quite fittingly, this star-studded “Tribute to Wrestling” featured some actual wrestling. This was the ballpark scene after the game.
And since we’re on the topic of “2011 incarnations of promotions I also covered in 2010″, it is worth noting that the Modesto Nuts have once again staged a “Mascot Dance Party” featuring the inimitable Al and Wally.
Last season, Al was the lucky recipient of a one-on-one lesson with dance instructor Taelor Fernandez. This year, it was Wally’s turn to learn from the beautiful Ms. Fernandez.
Those lessons have really paid off.
And since we’re on the topic, you should really be aware that a new bat dog-based dance craze is sweeping through Trenton. Teach me how to Derby!
But if those moves are too complicated, then maybe you should check out what’s on offer out there in Lancaster, CA. Whip it good!
All this dancing is making me realize that I need to up my game, as the only move I ever mastered was limping to the side like my leg was broken. Please help me, Taelor Fernandez.
During this slow time of year, you better believe that if a new logo comes my way I’m going to lead with it.
Today, that new logo is this:
The above mark will serve serve as the official logo for the 2011 California/Carolina League All-Star Game, which you now know will be taking place in Modesto.
Some background info, from the press release:
The logo pays homage to the annual Graffiti month held every June in Modesto in honor of the classic film American Graffiti by filmmaker and Modesto native George Lucas. The logo features the Nuts mascots, Al the Almond and Wally the Walnut, in a classic car reminiscent of the 1950s.
Ah, yes, The Modesto Nuts and American Graffiti. I believe I wrote about that once. It is also worth noting that the Nuts’ commitment to the films of George Lucas has extended to the Sci-Fi franchise for which he is best known. Observe:
And since we’re talking about 2011 events, yesterday I was heartened to see one of the first promotional announcements of the upcoming season: The Great Lakes Loons will be staging six nights in honor of the Detroit Red Wings.
The series, a fresh spin on the Loons successful Tigers Legends Series, will include six Loons home games paying tribute to former Red Wings greats. Three of the games will include a visit from Detroit Red Wings greats and three games will include a commemorative bobblehead of Red Wings legends.
Sounds like a excellent idea, although one question remains: What’s the difference between a “great” and a “legend”?
Such questions can be put on ice, however, for there are currently far more pressing concerns in the world of sports. Questions such as: Where I am going to watch the World Series?
Fans of the Round Rock Express needn’t worry. In honor of their big league affiliate Rangers making it to the Fall Classic, the Express are inviting fans to watch the game in style.
Sez the team:
The Express will be hosting a Watch Party for every game of the Fall Classic in the Intel Club at the Dell Diamond. Our luxury, VIP club spans nearly 4,000 square feet and offers more than 22,000 square inches of flat-panel TV screens,
making it the perfect spot to witness Rangers’ history!
Sounds like a pretty great Watch Party, if you ask me. I’m sure it will be better than the last one I went to, as I was pressured into a buying a counterfeit Rolex that broke four days later.
If you thought I was done recapping the 2010 season, then you thought sensibly.
You also thought wrong.
In reviewing the year that was, I came to the realization that my favorite videos of the season had the following three things in common: They featured players, they were short (under two minutes) and they were funny.
No team was better at combining the following three criteria than the Peoria Chiefs, who put out videos featuring boy bands, models, and karaoke superstars. But my personal favorite paid homage to the sweet sounds of Motown.
The Tulsa Drillers were able to provide great insight into the culture of the bullpen, whose denizens are free to focus on matters follicles.
In Everett, meanwhile, the players were more concerned with that which resided above the upper lip.
And since we’re talking about players, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the masterwork of Reading Phillies sluggers Tagg Bozied and Matt Rizzotti.
The Charlotte Stone Crabs also used players to great effect throughout the season, as part of their “This Is Stone Crabs Baseball” ad series. This one, starring Isaias Velazquez, was my favorite.
Velazquez has good reason to be upset, and as this video amply illustrates it is not wise to mess with Minor League Baseball players. Behold, the “aqua-palypse” that took place in Gwinnett County.
Of course, a good Minor League video doesn’t necessarily need to feature the players at all. Lakewood BlueClaws intern “D-Bo” made a name for himself this season with a series of videos designed to highlight upcoming promotions. Here’s a sample, with sight gags a-plenty:
Amazingly, I’ve gotten this far without posting a parody video. Let’s rectify that immediately, by checking out the Binghamton Mets unique take on “Twilight”.
But nothing inspires parody more than early ’90s West Coast gangsta rap, as evidenced by these two works of art.
The above video was produced by the Peoria Chiefs, bringing this post full circle. But before closing this one out, I have just one more thing to announce:
Boy oh boy is it ever.
One might think that I’ve already fulfilled my Spam Carving blogging quota for the 2010 campaign, and that additional posts on the subject would be gratuitous at best and offensive at worst.
Well, one would be wrong. For I have received a copiously detailed missive from the wilds of Northern California, documenting in painstaking detail the canned-meat sculpting competition that was recently staged by the Modesto Nuts. This momentous event made it clear that Spam Carving can thrive within West Coast ballparks, far removed from its Reading, PA origins.
Nuts’ director of marketing and public relations Christa Parr explains that the competition was comprised of five one-person “teams”, who had “20 toothpicks, a knife, a fork, salt and pepper packets, and 30 minutes to make their greatest Spam carving epiphany a reality.”
This Spam competition, like all others, began with the sound of the preservative-laden product oozing out of its restrictive confines:
And after the 30 minutes of intense artistic concentration were up, here is what had been created.
Team 1: “I’m With the Band”
I call this a “Spamplifier”:
Team 2: “The Party House“
Team 3: “The Mystery (Meat) Machine”
Team 4: “Spam Stonehenge”
Parr relayed an anecdote about how an onlooker criticized Spam Stonehenge, noting that it “had been done to death.” I’d like to think that I contributed to this perception, having featured a “Stonehenge-looking thing” in a previous Spam carving blog post.
Team 5: “Untitled”
I would have voted for “Lobster God” as my favorite, but unfortunately I was not in attendance. As it turned out, The Mystery (Meat) Machine earned top honors, with Party House edging out Spam Stonehenge in a closely-contested race for second.
80% of the competitors, along with 80% of the Spam creations:
That’ll do it for this, my latest round of Spam Carving coverage. I’ve got some excellent, non-Spam content lined up for the next two days, but after that the well is dry. Fill it up!
This past Wednesday, the inaugural “Heath Evans Charity Softball Game” was held at Zephyrs Field in New Orleans (home of the New Orleans Zephyrs, natch).
The event featured Evans and a whole slew of his New Orleans Saints teammates, but it was Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees who stole the show. The multi-talented QB hit home runs from both sides of the plate during the home run derby portion of the evening, and then bashed another one during the game itself.
Somewhat inexplicably, no professional-grade video seems to exist of Brees’ batting barrage. But a few amateur cinematographers documented it to the best of their abilities, as seen here:
From the right:
And during the game:
Moving on from baffling under-documentation to copious over-documentation, the Modesto Nuts recently released a video that details just how maddening (and interminable) rain delays can be. Absurdity levels are off the charts on this one:
And speaking of absurdity, the Lakewood BlueClaws have been releasing videos that are jam-packed with groan-inducing puns and shameless sight gags (meaning that inclusion on this blog is guaranteed). Meet “D-Bo”, who provides a joke-filled tour through the ins and outs of the team’s upcoming homestand:
Finally, the Tulsa Drillers are one of many teams to stage a local variation of “American Idol”. This recently released video illustrates a dramatic disparity among the talent levels of the various contestants:
It might be hard to say goodbye to yesterday, but it sure is easy to say goodbye to today.
Until we meet again, I remain: