Baseball

Lopez: Modesto Nuts newbie finds major league entertainment at minor-league ballpark

Modesto Nuts player Luis Liberato talks with Escalon Little League players before the opening day game with the Stockton Ports at John Thurman Field in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, April 11, 2019.
Modesto Nuts player Luis Liberato talks with Escalon Little League players before the opening day game with the Stockton Ports at John Thurman Field in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, April 11, 2019. aalfaro@modbee.com

Seeing life-sized Modesto Nuts mascots walk around can be quite terrifying.

But, once they give you a high-five and a thumbs up, you become friends.

If you want to hang out with some friendly mascots — and see some great baseball and eat some good food — you ought to check out a Modesto Nuts game.

I had the chance to go to my first on Thursday as Modesto hosted the Stockton Ports in the team’s home-opener.

The talent level wasn’t like a Major League Baseball game but the atmosphere was nevertheless fun. No, this isn’t an Oakland Athletics or San Francisco Giants game with some of the best players of the world. But, the talent level is still impressive.

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Modesto Nuts opening day game with the Stockton Ports at John Thurman Field in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, April 11, 2019. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

And, there is always a chance you could see players who will make an impact on your favorite club in the coming years. Just ask those years ago who saw the likes of Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Jason Giambi come through Modesto.

Nuts infielder Joe Rizzo, a 2016 MLB Draft second-round pick, is hitting over .300 and was the Most Valuable Player when the team won the 2017 California League title.

Also, there are players in the California League who played high school in the area.

Ports starting pitcher Daulton Jefferies, who is battling back from Tommy John Surgery he had in 2017, is an Atwater native and played at Buhach Colony High School before starting for the University of California.

Jefferies is the probable starter on Sunday for the Ports, who won Thursday’s opener over the Nuts 5-0.

Kyler Murray, college football’s 2018 Heisman Trophy Winner, was the first-round pick for the A’s and could have been on the Ports roster but he quit baseball to focus on football.

Players aside, just being around the atmosphere Thursday night for a couple of hours sometimes had me forgetting about the action on the field.

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Modesto Nuts coaches and players are introduced before the opening day game with the Stockton Ports at John Thurman Field in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, April 11, 2019. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

There was a tricycle race that I think I’m a little too old to participate in (I’ll still try one day), face painting, a bounce house, giant slides, and a very good beatboxer who welcomed me into the stadium.

On the food side, I tried the new loaded fries, which had sour cream, carne asada, cheese, salsa, jalapeños, and more.

A little too heavy for me but I saw some smiles on others who were eating them.

The Modesto Nuts have 68 home games left after Friday’s game with Stockton featuring one of the many postgame fireworks show this season.

If you like great entertainment with baseball, head over to John Thurman Field.

Welcome back, Nuts.

Now where are those mascot friends of mine?

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Modesto Nuts opening day game with the Stockton Ports at John Thurman Field in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, April 11, 2019. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

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Julian A. Lopez has been covering local sports for The Modesto Bee since August 2018. He graduated from Arizona State in 2016 with a BA in Journalism.


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