The Colorado Rockies do something in their minor league camp at spring training that sets them apart from most organizations.
They still break down their daily work groups by teams — Modesto at one field and Tulsa at the next. But you'd need to recognize faces or coaches to know which is which, since all of them wear the same uniform.
Through spring training, they're not Nuts or Drillers. According to their uniforms, they're all Rockies.
The organization does this to foster camaraderie within the entire organization and to make sure every player in the minor leagues never has to do more than look down at the front of his shirt to be reminded of the ultimate goal.
But it does create an interesting moment each year when the players sent to Modesto gather at media day. For the vast majority of this year's players, Tuesday was the first time they've pulled on a jersey that says "NUTS" across the front, and for most, it takes a moment for all of the connotations to soak in.
And because these are the low minor leagues, the rosters undergo a near-complete changeover each season. It means that every year most players are unfamiliar to the local fans — even to the media.
At the major league level, teams talk about April being a fresh start, even with a starting lineup virtually unchanged from the previous year.
In Modesto, every year is new and different, and in 2008 you'll even notice a difference in the way The Modesto Bee is covering the Nuts.
For the last 10 years, the daily coverage of the Modesto Nuts has included a full notebook detailing injuries, player moves, stories from the clubhouse and trends on the team and in the California League.
Starting with Thursday's game, that notebook will be expanded, turned into the form of a blog called "Inside the Shell" and available online at http://thehive.modbee.com/insidetheshell as well as (soon) at www.modbee.com/nuts.
For people used to getting this information as part of The Modesto Bee delivered to your front doorstep on a daily basis, the necessity to go online may be a hassle at first. But we're hoping that the blog, and all the other items on The Bee's new Nuts online page, will make the trek online worth your while.
The online page should be ready very soon and will include much more than the archived stories that currently can be found on the page.
It's a new and much different way for fans locally and across the country to keep up-to-date about their favorite minor league team, and if you need more convincing, look at it this way: In most cases, this blog will be updated prior to the end of each Nuts' home game. So instead of having to wait until the next morning to read the notebook, you should be able to access the freshest Nuts' information as soon as you get home from John Thurman Field.
This blog format also will allow me additional freedom to share some of the behind-the-scenes ballpark experiences, including sharing some of the antics that occur in the frenetic Nuts' press box, or perhaps things that are talked about in the radio booths when the microphones are turned off.
Our aim with the Nuts' page is that it will become your one-stop site for all things related to the Nuts. In addition to the blog, which will be archived, the latest game stories, features, photos, standings, statistics and video coverage will be available at your fingertips.
The page also will have interactive features, such as comment pages, links to The Bee's Modesto Nuts' fan forum, polls and trivia questions. If you want more minor league coverage, there will be additional links to the official sites of the Nuts, the California League and Minor League Baseball.
We're hoping the page will become a very important part of your Modesto Nuts' fan experience. If there's something in particular you would like to know about the team or about an individual player or coach, drop me an e-mail here and I'll do my best to either answer it in this blog or find some other way to get the answer to you.
It's something we're doing at The Modesto Bee to set us apart from the way other newspapers cover their local minor league team.
At the Colorado spring training site in Tucson, everybody's a Rockie. Around here, we all like to think we're a little Nuts over our minor league team.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.