April 7, 2014

Antonio Belarmino: Finally, it’s Opening Day at Modesto’s John Thurman Field

A new friend and I were getting to know each other. To the inquiry, “Do you like spectator sports?” he queried back, “Is there any other kind?”

A new friend and I were getting to know each other. To the inquiry, “Do you like spectator sports?” he queried back, “Is there any other kind?”

It has been a long, hard winter. Finally, live baseball is upon us. The Nuts will commence their California League home season Thursday, which is the greatest entertainment value in Stanislaus County.

If a person is wont to believe the weather prognosticators/prevaricators, the weather will be perfect for spring baseball. The temperatures should be in the upper 70s or lower 80s with no chance of rain.

The only constant is change, and four changes stand out in my mind:

• First, Tyler Richardson, the local boy made good, has been promoted to vice president and general manager. Tyler attended Calvary Christian Schools, transferred to West High in Tracy for his senior year and then graduated from CSU, Stanislaus. However, his interest in minor league baseball in Modesto goes back a long time, probably due to the influence of his grandfather. His enthusiasm will be seen in all the operations.
• The second change is a new field manager, Don Sneddon, who holds the California record for community college victories. The Rockies recruited him for his ability to train young men so they can advance through the ranks of baseball.
• Promotions are a big part of minor league baseball, which brings up the third change. There is a yet-unnamed pistachio that is joining Al the Almond and Wally the Walnut as mascots. I didn’t know we grew that many pistachios in Stanislaus County.
• The fourth change is the perennial change, the huge shift in team personnel. The nature of minor league baseball is that players and umpires, and to some extent the coaching staffs, are all looking for promotions to the next level and eventually to “The Show,” as the major leagues are known. That demands that even as repeat season ticket holders, my daughter, Michelle, and I depend heavily on the stat packs to know who the players are. We are resigned to the possibility that players we enjoy watching will get promoted mid-season.

The people in our section have forbidden Michelle from choosing a “favorite player” since in the past that has guaranteed he will soon leave the club.

It is hard to develop any sort of team/player loyalty when promotions are always looming on the horizon, yet we are excited when we see familiar players playing for the Rockies and think, “I know that man.”

Of course there is nothing like live baseball.

My passion for baseball goes back to the mid-’50s when I realized there was more to the game than what we kids played in vacant fields. As my new friend states, baseball is something we can all enjoy without being the least bit proficient at it.

I will live in anticipation of Thursday evening when, after the national anthem and the “play ball” kid get things rolling, the first Rancho Cucamonga player steps in to receive that first pitch of the season at John Thurman Field.

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