Spring provides a glimmer of hope after a long, hard winter. The dormant lawns have started to get green and grow. The camellias are beautiful. The weather is getting warmer.
A long, desolate winter is over. Spring is when an old man's fancy turns to baseball.
I first became interested in baseball as a spectator sport in junior high school and there were no major league teams west of the Mississippi. The team that got all the attention was the Yankees, so as a preadolescent boy in Sacramento I became a Yankees fan. They had Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, one of the best three-four combinations in history (batting third and fourth).
In April 1968 I became an Oakland Athletics fan and continue to be one to this day. Later, that team had Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire batting third and fourth.
The Oakland organization had a very good farm system, so we have seen a lot of talented players come through Modesto. The 30-year relationship between Modesto and the A's ended a few years ago.
Change is hard, but a fact of life. The Nuts, part of the Colorado Rockies organization, provide us with our yearly five months of really good entertainment.
Al the Almond and Wally the Walnut are now introduced as Modesto's "best-known citizens."
We have seen a lot of really good baseball players come through Thurman Field. This year's crop of young players will be no different than past years.
We're not guaranteed another "Tulo" (Troy Tulowitzki), who is on this week's cover of Sports Illustrated, but we never know. Tulo, who played for the Nuts in 2005, was a very close second in Rookie of the Year balloting last year. He was the first person in several years to turn an unassisted triple play. There just might be another Tulo on our team this year.
There is another reason I am such a fan of minor league baseball. I am frugal, though my wife calls me cheap. Nuts baseball is the cheapest entertainment in the Central Valley. A man can take his whole family to a game without going broke.
Michelle, my daughter, and I have had season tickets for the last five or six years. There is a liberal exchange policy for unused tickets, but we usually make every weekend game. We got the long anticipated call from The Nuts front office that our tickets were ready. Michelle stopped to pick them up and was assured we had the same seats we have had since we have been season ticket holders.
I am looking forward to opening day Monday at Thurman Field. We have inexpensive seats above The Nuts' dugout, getting a good look at future major league players. What more can an old man want?
Play ball! Go Nuts!
Belarmino, a Turlock resident, works at Health Services Agency and is a chaplain with the Assemblies of God Disaster
Response Task Force. E-mail him at RevTonyAG@aol.com.