MODESTO — Trevor Story is a polite young man from Texas, but don't confuse him with an "aw, shucks" hayseed.
He's good, perhaps the best 20-year-old shortstop prospect in the country. What's more, Story knows it, but you're not going to hear it from him.
"He's different," said Nuts' manager Lenn Sakata. "He has a quiet confidence almost stoic. It's like he's sitting back and sizing everything up, measuring everything you say to see if it makes any sense.
"That can be intimidating and that can turn people off if you're not saying anything, but he's just quiet. He knows what's going on, but he just doesn't vocalize it."
Modesto fans, after the hometown Nuts have spent a week on the road, finally get their chance tonight to see Story a 2011 first-round draft pick of Colorado and his teammates play at John Thurman Field.
It's the home opener, with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch, and the Lancaster JetHawks who beat Modesto in the 2012 California League championship series will be in town to flaunt their rings.
But last year is just that last year. It's history, and this group is trying to make some history of its own.
The majority of the 2013 Nuts' team are sporting new rings of their own after winning a South Atlantic League championship. But before Story played a game with Modesto, he was informed of what it has meant from an historic standpoint to play shortstop for the Nuts.
When the Rockies first came to Modesto in 2005, the Nuts' everyday shortstop (once he arrived after the draft) was Troy Tulowitzki. And in every year through 2011, the Nuts' projected regular shortstop has gone on to play in the majors.
It's an impressive list: Tulo in 2005, followed by Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson, Hector Gomez (2008-09), Thomas Field and Josh Rutledge.
Fill those shoes, pardner.
"Let's hope I can follow up on that tradition," Story said. "All those guys and very good ballplayers and had good years here on their way up."
Of course, the elephant on Colorado's infield depth chart is Tulowitzki, who simply is the best in the game when healthy and, at 28, doesn't appear to be ready to move to third base anytime soon.
"He's one of the best players in the game when he's healthy and I can't control anything about that," Story said. "I just have to go out and play as hard as I can every day and go where the Rockies want me to be. If it works out, then great."
One of Story's goals this season is to improve his rate of contact at the plate.
As a senior at Irving High School, Story hit .484 (44-for-91) with 10 doubles, three triples, eight homers and 29 RBIs, and signed a letter of intent to play at Louisiana State University.
But the Rockies took him at No. 45 (a compensation pick for the loss of free agent pitcher Octavio Dotel), convinced Story to sign and sent him to Casper, where he hit .268 in 47 games, striking out 41 times in 179 at-bats.
Last season Story his .277 in 122 games, with 18 homers and 63 RBIs, but whiffed 121 times.
Sakata has seen enough of Story that he isn't worried about his shortstop.
"He's a legit player if I've ever seen one at this level, and we didn't have too many like him come through San Jose," Sakata said. "We had guys who could field, but rarely a guy with the capabilities of this kid almost like when Brandon Wood came through this league.
"For me, it's nice to have a kid who is going to go out and play every day without having to be told what to do."
Through Story's offensive ups and downs the last two years, his defense never wavered, and his power numbers impressed. But they were accomplished in Asheville, and while the California League is known for offense, Story tonight will play the first of 70 games at spacious John Thurman Field.
"I took a look at this ballpark and it looks, uh, pretty big," Story said. "I've heard from past Modesto players that this is a hitter-friendly league and I'm excited about that. I'm just ready to go and test it out."
So far, his adjustment to California League pitching has not gone well. Entering Wednesday's game in Rancho Cucamonga, Story was hitting just .136 (3-for-22) and had struck out 11 times. All his hits came off lefties, and he was hitless in eight at-bats against right-handers, with six strikeouts. Story hit his first home run in the ninth inning, a shot to left center, in Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday.
Starting tonight Story finally gets the the chance to play in front of the home fans, and while Modesto has a big park, something about playing at home always allows these players to relax.
They'll sleep in their own bed instead of at a hotel, and will be able to get into that daily routine so important to developing professional baseball skills.
And after spending the entire opening week of the season in Southern California, Story and his teammates will get a chance to acclimate themselves to the slightly slower lifestyle and the sights and sounds of the Central Valley.
"I have no idea about Modesto," Story said. "Except that we're the Nuts."
MODESTO NUTS 2013 OPENING HOMESTAND
TONIGHT: Lancaster, 7:05 p.m. Opening night, fireworks, Thirsty Thursday: $2 beer and wine.
FRIDAY: Lancaster, 7:05 p.m. Fireworks
SATURDAY: Lancaster, 7:05 p.m. Fireworks, free Fan Fest 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
SUNDAY: Lancaster, 1:05 p.m. Play catch on the field at 12:30, kids run bases after the game
MONDAY: Visalia, 7:05 p.m. Free ticket for donation of two canned goods, two books or pieces of clothing
TUESDAY: Visalia, 7:05 p.m. Two upper box seats and two $10 food vouchers for $25
WEDNESDAY: Visalia, 7:05 p.m. $1 hot dogs, sodas and snacks
TICKETS: Cost $5-12, call (209) 572-4487