MODESTO — I have been doing the countdown to opening day at John Thurman Field since September. That long, barren stretch without live baseball will end at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, when we hear those ever-important words, "Play ball!," and the first batter from the Lancaster Jethawks stands in against the first pitch from our Modesto Nuts.
I was honored when I was asked to judge the Nuts' national anthem auditions. I had dreams that I was asked to judge because I was a music minor in college, served as a youth and music minister for four years, and worked with church music throughout my ministry. Alas, the real reason was probably because I returned a phone call.
Sitting at Thurman Field, looking out on the new turf and listening to "The Star Spangled Banner," got me excited about minor league baseball in Modesto.
There are things that have not changed from last year. Lenn Sakata is bringing his World Series championship experience back to manage the Nuts. Most of the weekly promotions are back, including Friday and Saturday fireworks displays.
There are some new promotions this year. Two for Tuesdays will package two upper box seats and two $10 meal vouchers, a $42 value, for just $25. One Buck Wednesdays is another new promotion for 2013. Fans will be able to purchase hot dogs, soft drinks, snacks and wristbands for use in the kids area for just $1 every Wednesday night. Thirsty Thursdays will combine $2 sodas and beers with $2 tacos. Part of Funday Sundays will be an opportunity to play catch on the field for a half hour after the gates open.
I am a huge baseball fan, but it is hard to be a Nuts fan because the majority of players are new every year. Adding the fact that players are also promoted during the season, it is nice that season ticket holders get a "stat pack" every game, to keep track of the players.
Minor league baseball provides excellent entertainment, but the sole purpose of those players in the minor leagues is an opportunity to make it to the show. Being promoted from A league to AA league with a sojourn in AAA league to make it to the majors is the goal of every professional player.
One of the most important things about Modesto professional baseball is its effort to make the baseball experience accessible for families at reasonable prices. When averaged out, our seats are cheaper than a movie ticket. Plus I have never fallen asleep at a baseball game, so I get my money's worth. The last movie I went to see was "Moneyball" and that was the first movie I'd gone to see in years. I manage to use all of our Nuts tickets, thanks to the generous exchange policy.
My excitement for the first day of this American pastime is building. Live baseball is almost here.
Belarmino, a retired Turlock resident, is a chaplain with the Assemblies of God Disaster Response Task Force. Regular readers know that he is also an avid Nuts fun. Email him at email@example.com.