Results tagged ‘ Modesto Nuts ’

On the Road: Leaning Healthy in Modesto

To see all posts from my August 3 visit to the Modesto Nuts, click HERE. To see all posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

This man, his name is Derek Nyquist.

img_0129Derek lives in Turlock, California, located approximately 15 miles south of Modesto. He’s an eligible bachelor who regularly attends Nuts games, as well as those hosted by the Stockton Ports and Fresno Grizzlies. Derek said that he’s been a huge baseball fan ever since he was nine years old; he is a big autograph collector, and also plays on Sundays for a team in the amateur Mexican-American League.

Derek earns his living making milk cartons for Evergreen Packaging, who have a plant in Turlock. He said that if you “drink a milk carton, then there’s a good chance I inspected it.”

“I put on the side panels [of the carton],” he continued. “There are games for kids on it, no missing persons. I once did a side panel for the Everett AquaSox.”

Derek’s job on this evening was to serve as my designated eater (the individual recruited to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). We were in attendance on a Wednesday evening, and on Wednesdays the Nuts offer $1 specials on a variety of concession stand staples. Ed Mack, who oversees the Nuts concessions, quickly assembled a cavalcade of dollar items for Derek to sample.


The soda in the below picture happened to be a Columbia sarsaparilla. In my youth, I remember watching an episode of Full House where Stephanie is unable to spell “sarsaparilla” correctly and, consequently, I have never made the same mistake. This is one of many ways in which I am superior to Stephanie.

As for this particular sarsaparilla, it’s made by Columbia Soda Works. Derek said that Columbia Soda Works is a “tourist attraction” and that “they film Westerns there.” I had a sarsaparilla as well, and was heard to remark that it was “creamier, sweeter and less fizzy than your average root beer.”

Continuing on this “interesting non-alcoholic beverages served at Modesto Nuts games” tangent, please note that the team sells “Noah’s Spring Water.”


Noah’s is bottled by the Modesto-based Varni Brothers Corporation. The company website notes that the “Noah’s” name was chosen because it is a “friendly and refreshing symbol with more than 4000 years of recognition.”

Finally, if it’s beer you’re wanting while attending a Modesto Nuts game, please note that the team offers selections from Turlock-based Dust Bowl Brewing. The picnic pavilion at John Thurman Field is sponsored by Dust Bowl Brewing, as a matter of fact.


But back to the subject at hand, which I believe was Derek and the dollar menu.  Derek took his dollar dog and dressed it up accordingly.

img_0124Then he ate it.

img_0125Derek was ambivalent about the hot dog, calling it a “standard hot dog.”

“It wasn’t cold,” he said. “You get a cold one every once in a while.”

We moved on to a new addition on the Nuts’ concession menu, one that is rather unorthodox by ballpark standards: a Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowl. Ed told us it was part of an attempt to “lean healthy” on the ballpark menu and that it had “been well-received and one of our bigger sellers.”

img_0126Have at it, Derek.

“It’s better than I thought it would be,” said Derek. “It’s got a little bit of spice to it. I’ve never had anything like this at a ballgame. Normally I’d go toward junk food.”

Next up was the Pulled Pork Quesadilla, a made-to-order item which also contained a melted, four-blend cheese. It is served with a side of tortilla chips, sour cream and salsa.
img_0128“I haven’t had a lot of quesadillas in my time,” said Derek, who can be seen brandishing this quesadilla in the photo at the top of this post. “It’s good. There’s plenty of meat and they didn’t overdo the cheese.”

And speaking of cheese, these are deep-fried cheese curds. The Nuts sell them at a finger food stand that specializes in garlic fries.


Curds? No whey!

Derek quickly provided a demonstration on how to eat a deep-fried cheese curd.

img_0131Derek’s an athletic guy, but nonetheless he was unable to pull off the ol’ “throw a cheese curd in the air and catch it in your mouth” stunt. He made a yeoman’s effort, though.

“They’re as advertised, I guess,” said Derek, of the cheese curds. “I can’t say they’re anything out of the ordinary. I’d be more apt to get the rice bowl again.”

Thus concluded Derek’s stint as a designated eater.

img_0133“You filled me up. This is the most ballpark food I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’d definitely rank the Teriyaki Bowl at the top. The quesadilla and hot dog are tied, and then the cheese curds. And I’d never had Columbia Sarsaparilla before either.”

As a token of appreciation for his hard work, Derek received the official “Designated Eater” t-shirt.

Derek was the second person to ever receive the t-shirt, and the first to pair it with a Salem-Keizer Volcanoes hat. The Volcanoes are pleased, which is a good thing. No one wants to deal with a displeased Volcano.


On the Road: Going Nuts in Modesto

To see all posts from my August 3 visit to the Modesto Nuts, click HERE. To see all posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

After attending August 2’s game in Stockton, I immediately drove 34 miles to the southeast. And — bam! — just like that, I was in Modesto. Modesto is the home of the Nuts, and the Nuts play at John Thurman Field. This is where I spent the evening of August 3, which began under a blistering, blazing sun.

img_0107John Thurman Field, which opened in 1955, looks a bit underwhelming from the outside. But within, one finds a verdant wonderland.

img_0121The nine-hole Modesto Municipal Golf Course, which opened in 1939, is located adjacent to the ballpark. I took this photo through a chain link fence on the concourse.


It was “$1 Wednesday,” and these fans showed up early to get the biggest bang for their bucks.

img_0117This concourse kiosk distributed complimentary sunscreen, and was complemented by another kiosk loaded with free hand sanitizer. I would like to see more teams offer such things.

img_0114As game time approached, the sun remained blistering, blazing, practically blinding.

img_0119While there’s nothing funny about getting hit in the head by a foul ball, there is something at least a little funny about this sign.

img_0122But getting hit in the head might be preferable to getting hit in the Nuts — all three of them.


Wally Walnut and Al Almond have been around since 2005, when the team adopted the “Nuts” moniker. The nut in the middle — Shelley the Pistachio — made her debut this season.

Shelley is such a sweetheart, my favorite mascot that I met this year and maybe even my new favorite in all of Minor League Baseball. Several minutes after the above picture was taken, the mascots and I were milling about on the field in advance of the pregame ceremonies. Shelley signaled to me that she would like to see my notebook and pen, and I obliged her.

img_2278Color me smitten.

img_2280I threw out a ceremonial first pitch prior to the ballgame. While I don’t have any photographic evidence of the pitch itself, I do have this picture of the immediate aftermath. It’s a near-certainty that the six individuals seen below will never again pose for a photograph together. Savor the moment.

img_2282With the requisite pregame ceremonies out of the way, it was time for the evening’s action to truly begin. The Nuts were hosting the Visalia Rawhide, whom I was slated to visit two days hence.

img_2285During the ballgame, I enjoyed a stint as a t-shirt distributor. These are the tools of the trade.

img_2287It really is harder than it looks!

But I got the hang of it eventually, shooting tightly wrapped tees deep into the evening sky.


This wasn’t the only method in which I distributed t-shirts. Before the game began, I tweeted that the first fan to come up to me and say “Give me a t-shirt, you beautiful man, you” would get a Ben’s Biz t-shirt. One Christopher Glynn took me up on the offer. Here’s our not-at-all awkward reenactment of this momentous moment.

I also played a very important role in an on-field potato sack race, as the contestants had to slap five with me before turning around and heading to the finish line.

20160803_193115The kid in the black shirt missed my hand completely. The look on my face in the photo below is, basically, “C’mon, you can do better than that!”

20160803_193127Through it all, a game was going on.

img_2301The Nuts enjoyed a walk-off victory, defeating Visalia, 5-4, in 10 innings. This turn of events subsequently inspired my Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day.

Thus concluded my Wednesday evening in Modesto. It was — wait for it — totally Nuts.


About Last Night: Modesto Nuts, August 3, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, when I return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. On Wednesday night I visited Modesto, California, the third stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 3: Modesto Nuts (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Colorado Rockies)

Opponent: Visalia Rawhide, 7:05 p.m.

John Thurman Field, from the outside: 

IMG_0107John Thurman Field, from within: 

IMG_0115Culinary Creation: Chicken and Rice Bowl, a new addition for 2016.

IMG_0126Ballpark Characters: Wally, Shelley and Al, a triumvirate of anthropomorphic nuts.


At Random: All of my slinging attempts after this one were flawless, of course.

Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

August 4: San Jose Giants (vs. Modesto, 6:30 p.m.)

August 5: Visalia Rawhide (vs. Inland Empire, 7:00 p.m.)

August 6: Las Vegas 51s (vs. Fresno, 7:05 p.m.)

August 8: Reno Aces (vs. Salt Lake, 7:05 p.m.)

August 10: Boise Hawks (vs. Hillsboro, 7:15 p.m.)

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (vs. Spokane, TBD)

August 12: Spokane Indians (vs. Eugene, 6:30 p.m.)



A Mass of Cots-tumed Characters

I’m going to assume that, at this point in time, you have already thoroughly scoured my post on 2014 road trip itineraries. (If you haven’t, then please click HERE). Thanks to all who have provided feedback on that post; more is always encouraged via  and

But enough about me! Did you know that, in recent weeks, several new Minor League mascots have made their debut? I am sensing a profoundly ambivalent response to that query, but soldiering on in the face of ambivalence is what I do best. Therefore, let’s start with Chico of the El Paso Chihuahuas, who I will be able to meet in person on April 29th. Say what you will about the Chihuahuas name/logo/overall branding efforts, but one thing they are definitely not is bashful. Chico, who came into the world without even a scintilla of an origin story, is IN YOUR FACE.

(This, and all Chico photos, courtesy Peter Svarzbein/El Paso Chihuahuas)


Let’s back up a little…

chico 1

From the rear. This photo could in no way be misconstrued.


I do my best to refrain from lazy “only on the internet” phrases such as “nightmare fuel,” but there’s no doubt that Chico has a bit of an edge too him. He’s got red eyes, a dog collar necklace, and a cockeyed, teeth-baring grin, three presentational elements that are rarely associated with the Minor League mantra of family-friendly entertainment.

El Paso Chihuahuas — on the cutting edge, or missing the mark? I have a feeling that Chico doesn’t care what your opinion is, whatever it is. He will be performing for a fan base that includes Pauly Shore and Cheech Marin (really!), so chances are that he’ll fit in just fine.

Peter Svarzbein/El Paso Chihuahuas

Peter Svarzbein/El Paso Chihuahuas

Meanwhile, a couple thousand miles to the northeast, the Akron RubberDucks have unveiled “Webster.” 


And, yes, let’s get this out of the way. As noted by more than one of my Twitter followers, Webster appears to be Minor League Baseball’s version of “Poochie,” the superfluous Itchy and Scratchy sidekick whose cynical conception and even more cynical demise was the subject of a classic Simpsons episode.


It turns out that, in the flesh, Webster is downright endearing. Chances are slim that he will die on the way back to his home planet, I look forward to meeting him when I visit Akron on July 18.

Out in Modesto, Al the almond and Wally the walnut have long held things down on the mascot front. You’d think that the team would be content with displaying their pair of nuts at every home game, but, no, they want more. Get ready for a female pistachio!


Like all female pistachios, this one needs a name! Fans are invited to choose among Penny, Patty, Shelley, Bella, or Polly, but why isn’t “Ms. Tachio” one of the options? I need to start a consulting company so that such wordplay opportunities are always taken advantage of within the industry. I would be good at this, and you know it.

Finally, in Little Rock, the Arkansas Travelers have unveiled not one and not three but yes two mascots: Ace and Otey. Sez the team:

Ace is a native Arkansan who grew up rooting for the Travelers. He proudly served his country and upon returning to the Natural State competed and won the Mascot Tryout. With a name like “Ace” of course he is a pitcher and stands at a very menacing 7′ 2″ tall and weighs 501 pounds with a size-36 hoof.

From the Travs’ Opening Day Facebook photo album:


At 7’2″, Ace’s height is even greater than former Arkansas Traveler Loek Van Mil!


This, also from the Travs, might be one of my favorite mascot bios in recent memory.

Initially the idea was for just one mascot, but when Ace introduced the Travs and Hughes Agency to his best friend “Otey the Swamp Possum” during the interview process all bets were off. Just like Ace, Otey is also native to the state hailing from Southeast Arkansas. He grew up watching Travs games with his family from underneath the stands at Little Rock’s Ray Winder Field. Otey, who was named after former Traveler infielder and groundskeeper R.C. Otey, claims that he is the Travelers’ “Good Luck Charm”. In fact Otey believes that his superstitions helped the Travs win the 2008 Texas League Championship even though their 62-78 regular season record was the worst for a champion in Texas League history. Otey stands a stout 5 feet tall, he is a fan of second base and the “phantom double play” and his favorite number is .984, which was R.C. Otey’s career fielding percentage.

And with this memorable bio comes a very memorable mascot.


Okay, let’s back it up just a bit…


Otey inspired a brief burst of snark and faux-outrage from amateur hour internet hyperbolists, but so what? As Otey’s bio makes clear — and this is something I learned firsthand when I visited in 2012 — the Travs and their fans have a strong nostalgia for their colorful Ray Winder Field past.  So much so, the beer garden at their current home of Dickey-Stephens Field is named after a well-known and often well-lubricated fan who would slide, in shorts, into a popcorn box base. Otey should fit right in.

And with that, it’s time for me to hook slide on out of here.


Return to the Road: From One Record Store to Another

I’ve spent the past several days working on season-opening content for, including the first Promo Preview column of the season. Working on season-opening content led me to the realization that the season is ready to open, which led to the realization that I really had better finish writing about my last road trip of 2013! Will today be the day that I finally finish writing about last season. Read on to find out! 

Today’s “Return to the Road” missive is the third in a series, and it picks up where part two left off: in Modesto, Calif., home of the Nuts. The previous night I had witnessed the Nuts play at John Thurman Stadium, and the plan for the day was to head north to Stockton to check out the Ports. Before departing Stockton I met with my compatriots from the night before, so that we could partake in a breakfast meal at Mediterranean Market and Grill in Modesto. For the record, this was the first dining establishment I ever visited that had filing cabinets in the men’s room.


Also for the record, my compatriots Joe and Bonnie Price and Jon Fischer. I first got to know the Prices in 2011 when Joe, a religious studies professor, sang the National Anthem at over 100 Minor League Baseball ballparks. Jon, who I have known since seventh grade, is an artist and teacher living in San Francisco. (He has recently featured me in one of his works, blogging without a shirt on).

Anyhow, thumbs up to the Mediterranean Grill. It was on the pricey side, but the food was on point.


From left to right: Joe Price, Bonnie Price, Jon

Before leaving Modesto, I followed standard operating procedure and visited a local record store. Welcome to Salty’s Record Attic.


I was immediately charmed by Salty’s, which was chock-a-block with used vinyl, cds, paperbacks, and pop culture ephemera.




Unfortunately, Salty’s prices were uniformly exorbitant (even when factoring in the sale discounts, seen advertised above). I’m not sure what their clientele is, but I wasn’t about to pay $25 for a used LP I could easily get for $10 or less in NYC. But it was a charming spot, and the woman working there was friendly, so I didn’t leave empty handed. In my hands, in place of the emptiness, was a Bob Wills record and a copy of George Plimpton’s Paper Lion. (Although, now that I’m looking again at the above picture, I have to ask myself why I didn’t buy The 10cc Story). 

The visit to Salty’s represented my final order of business in Modesto. The next stop was Stockton, located just 30 miles away. Would it be magnificent, as advertised?


The drive north was a breeze, and I spent the afternoon touring some of Stockton’s cultural highlights with city sports development director Tim Pasisz serving as my tour guide. My favorite stop was certainly the Wat Dharmararan Cambodian Buddhist Temple. The spacious outdoor grounds of the temple boast dozens of larger-than-life and dazzlingly colored statues that together illustrate the life of Buddha.



My time exploring the city with Pasisz was chronicled in this story, and that evening I attended the Ports game. Would you believe that, before moving on to my next destination or Reno, I managed to visit a record store?


How’s that for a cliffhanger ending? More to come from the West Coast, eventually, but tomorrow’s post shall deal with more timely matters…

Return to the Road: Visalia, Modesto, and Fresno In-Between

Welcome to the latest installment of “Return to the Road,” in which I re-trace my steps during my third and final road trip of the 2013 campaign in order to bring you all of the non-ballpark content that’s fit to print. The previous post in the series began in amid the vast expanse of Bakersfield and ended at Visalia’s Lamp Liter Inn, surely one of the quaintest team-affiliated hotels in all of Minor League baseball.

The Lamp Liter still issues honest-to-God keys, and the room signage was a definite blast from the past.




The on-site diner was similarly retro:


Before leaving Visalia I headed downtown and took a stroll. Most of the Central Valley California towns I visited on this trip were rough-around-the-edges and possessed an air of general economic despair, but the core of Visalia I found to be surprisingly vibrant. A brief photo tour, starting with a record store that was, unfortunately, closed on Mondays (marking the second day in a row my attempts to visit a local record store were thwarted).







I was very taken with Visalia, but my momentary illusion that it was some sort of small town utopia quickly received a reality check.

016 Finally, a bit of history, delivered via the time honored method of plaque-on-boulder.


I didn’t get any lunch in Visalia. My next stop was Fresno, and in that city my first order of business was to go on a brief tour of notable area taco trucks. This tour, arranged by members of the Fresno Grizzlies front office, was covered extensively on In brief, I had a really good time!


My time at that evening’s Fresno Grizzlies game has also been extensively documented. Among many highlights of my time at the ballpark was my encounter with this particularly committed “designated eater” (ie, the individual recruited at each ballpark to consume the gluten-free cuisine that my celiac disease prohibits).


The next day I made a pit stop at E. Olive Street in Fresno.

003The motivation for this pit stop was the same as so many other pit stops that I make while on these road trips: I had been tipped to the existence of an independent record store.


This particular record store was called Spinners. Welcome!



I picked up a few moderately-priced used classic rock LPs (Michael Nesmith, Humble Pie, Black Oak Arkansas), bantered with the friendly clerks for a bit, and then was on my way out of Fresno.

Next stop: Modesto, home of the Nuts. As is my standard operating procedure on these trips, I entered the ballpark while waving to my fans while riding atop a ’59 Corvette.


You can read all about my evening with the Nuts HERE. Part three of this series will pick up with my wanderings the next day in Modesto. A visit to a record store may have been involved.

On the Road: Nutting but a Good Time in Modesto

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.

008I’m a man of the people, and these inherently populist tendencies generally cause me to reject overly opulent surroundings. But the Nuts had set aside a suite for me, and who was I to disagree?



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!

013 Down on the lower level, the scene was luminous.


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.

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.

photo: Joe Price

photo: Joe Price

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).

IMG_9570On the plus side — the first pitch led to this memorable photo op: ceremonial first pitch catcher Brian Humphries (or at least I think that’s Brian Humphries), me, Al Almond, Wally the Walnut.


The game was about to begin, and on a more representative night the ballpark would have looked like this.

DSCF6250 - Copy

Don's Mobile Glass Party Deck (3)

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:

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.

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 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.


Still single, ladies.

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.


Simply the chest

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.

085Our ragtag group soon migrated next door so that Joe and I could lead the crowd in a poorly-documented but satisfying-in-the-moment rendition of the seventh inning stretch.


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.

IMG_8553 (1)


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!

Thanks, Mike on the Mic. Ben on the Blog is now over and out.

Musing Mascots in Costumed Contemplation

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.

It’s Sometimes Sunny Outside of Philadelphia

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.

Nuts On Wheels, Loons On Ice, and Baseball on the TV

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:

But back to the matter at hand: the Logo. Like the previous All-Star logo discussed on this blog, it was designed by the wunderkinds at Plan B Branding.

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 team reports:

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.