Two tips to help make the most of your Modesto Nuts season:
1. Giving your dog a hot dog? OK.
2. Letting Mr. Potato Head hear about the Firestone Fryland food stand? No way. He’d be horrified.
Bark in the Park, April 28, and Ode to the Potato Head Night, June 1, are just of couple of the fun plans for fans at John Thurman Field, where the Nuts have their home opener Thursday, facing the Stockton Ports in the start of a seven-game homestand.
The former is the return of a night to take dogs to the ball game. “I think a lot of people in the Central Valley are looking for somewhere to bring their dogs just to have fun,” said Veronica Hernandez, the Nuts’ director of marketing and promotions. More and more places like brew pubs are joining in, and “we’re just trying to add to that mix and have another social outing for dog owners.”
As for the June 1 promotion, it pays tribute to taters and, in particular, “one of the most underrated ‘Toy Story’ characters, Mr. Potato Head,” according to the Nuts’ promotion schedule.
“Minor League Baseball is known for their crazy promotions, so we definitely have to toss in a couple,” said Hernandez, who joined the ball club in October. Off-season brainstorming led to Mr. Potato Head Night, timed to ride the Buzz (pun fully intended) surrounding “Toy Story 4,” which comes out June 21.
As with the Nuts’ superhero and “Star Wars” nights, spectators are welcome — encouraged, even — to come out for the theme night dressed as “Toy Story” characters like Sheriff Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie and that smart-aleck spud. “We love the participation that fans bring out,” Hernandez said.
Speaking of potatoes, the aforementioned Fryland is a new concession stand from Firestone Walker Brewing Co., maker of 805 beer. It’s focused on french fries, Hernandez said, and customers can smother their potatoes with a variety of toppings. “What I’m mostly excited for are the loaded flat fries, which come with sour cream, carne asada, garlic, bacon, jalapenos and salsa.”
Fryland is among several new features and events for the 2019 season at Thurman Field. Fans will be greeted by new upper-box folding seats that are more comfortable than the bucket seating that was torn out, Hernandez said. “And the biggest thing we are most excited about is our video board — a brand-new, state-of-the-art, all-digital video board.”
The old video board was maybe a ninth of the new one’s size, she said. All the printed signage that surrounded it is gone, and partners’ advertising now is presented digitally.
On the festivities front, the Nuts are participating in the Minor League Baseball program “Copa de la Diversión.” The program’s goal is to embrace the culture and values of the Latino community. “We are close to 50 percent Latino here in the Central Valley,” Hernandez said, and the program, which translates to “fun cup,” is about welcoming the demographic into the ballpark.
There will be five copa game nights throughout the season: April 27, Dia de los Niños (Kids Day); May 25, Dia de la Cultura (Day of Culture); June 29, Dia de los Carros Locos (Crazy Car/ Low Rider Day, as part of Graffiti Summer); July 27, Fiesta de los Estudiantes (back-to-school night); and Aug. 31 - Dia Unidos (Celebrate Unity Day).
On copa nights, the Nuts will be called the Alebrijes de Modesto and wear jerseys and hats with green, light blue, purple and pink in them. In Mexican culture, alebrijes are mythical creatures, or spirit guides, Hernandez said.
The Modesto creature has the head of a coyote, an animal commonly found in the region; moose antlers, representing the Nuts’ parent club, the Seattle Mariners; and eagle wings and talons, which come from the Mexican flag and represent the area’s significant Mexican population.
Fans can expect a Latin look and sound at Thurman Field on the copa nights, Hernandez said. The team has two on-field hosts this season. They and the PA announcer all are bilingual in Spanish and English, she said, and will speak fluidly between the two languages in what’s commonly called Spanglish. So no matter which tongue a fan is comfortable with, it will be clear what’s happening on and around the field, Hernandez said.
One final thing sure to excite fans is Mega Money Fridays. Three of them are scheduled for May 24 and 31 and June 14. On each, one lucky fan has the chance to leave with $10,000 if a specific thing occurs in a specific inning. A home run in the fifth, for example, or a double play in the first. Or a game-long no hitter.
If it happens, a fan’s name will be randomly drawn. The bar is high, Hernandez said, but not impossibly high. “Like a double play is pretty normal in baseball,” she said, “but is it going to happen in the first inning?”
Check out all the season’s promotions at www.milb.com/modesto/tickets/promotions.