Friday, April 22, 2011

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 4 at Modesto Nuts 1 - April 21, 2011

The city of Modesto is best known for being the setting of the cult movie American Graffiti. But it is also home to the Modesto Nuts, Colorado's Cal League affiliate. Although it is just 35 miles south of Stockton, the town and ballpark are worlds apart.

John Thurman Field

Located just south of Modesto Municipal golf course, John Thurman Field is what I expect from a Class A minor league venue: simple, affordable, and fun.

There are two large parking lots on either side of the stadium. There is street parking around although there were signs indicating a 2 hour limit and no parking after 10 pm. Whether these rules are enforced was not something I was willing to investigate, so I forked over $5 and parked in the lot.

Tickets are cheap here, only $7 for what are called preferred grandstand seats. There are more expensive box seats down low, but only 3 rows of them, so I would recommend that you buy the preferred grandstand and choose where you want to sit. These seats are the benches on the left in the below photo, to the right are the $6 general admission bleachers.

The stadium was originally built in 1955 and was renovated in 1997. It is a basic facility, with no outfield seating and just a couple of concession stands. The concourse is devoid of any distractions as you can see below.

Sitting on the third base side will blind you for the first couple of innings as the setting sun is directly in front of you. Of course, you can sit where you want, so this isn't much of a problem.

The outfield is asymmetric, with measurements of 312, 393, 400, 370 and 319 from left to right.

There's not much else to say here. When I first did the ballpark tour in 2001, places like this were the norm. Now minor league ball is slowly being taken over by big corporations who charge too much. This isn't true everywhere but it's becoming more common. So it was a nice change to revisit John Thurman Field and return to minor league baseball the way it was once played.

The Nuts' bullpen chairs face the field

Retired Numbers

There are two retired numbers here, one for Joe Rudi, and one for Fred Anderson. Initially I thought it was for Sparky Anderson but was corrected by a commenter. I found the information below from the Nuts media notes from a game in early June.

(1) Fred Anderson – Purchased the Modesto A’s franchise in 1994 with the intent of moving the franchise to Sacramento. Anderson committed his efforts to improving baseball in Modesto once efforts to move the franchise to Sacramento failed. He led an effort to renovate John Thurman Field in 1996 and was able to negotiate a new two-year player development contract with the Oakland Athletics that same year.

(26) Joe Rudi - Joe Rudi batted .297 with 24 home runs and 85 runs batted in over 101 games for the Modesto Athletics in 1966. Rudi played sixteen years in the major leagues and was a key part of the Oakland Athletics teams that continually won their division in the early 1970's (and won the World Series in 1972-74).

Joe Rudi was born in Modesto; Sparky Anderson managed for one season here

The Game

Ethan Martin (above) started for Rancho Cucamonga, who are the Dodgers' affiliate. Martin was their 1st-round pick in 2008 and is still considered a prospect, but has struggled with his command during his pro career. I saw him pitch last season in the Cal League, so he hasn't progressed much since then. His mound opponent was Dan Houston (7th, 2008, below).

Martin's poor command led to the first run of the game. Nolan Arenado (2nd, 2009, Rockies #3 prospect, above) singled to lead off the 4th and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Mike Zuanich (28th, 2008, below) then singled him home. Martin walked Orlando Sandoval and uncorked another wild pitch to put runners at second and third, but struck out the next two batters to escape the jam down 1-0.

Houston was good, yielding only a first-inning single through six frames. After striking out Modesto native Blake Smith (2nd, 2009, #27 prospect), Houston was relieved having thrown just 77 pitches. Unfortunately for him, his bullpen couldn't hold it. Kurt Yacko (8th, 2008) gave up 2 runs in the 7th and Coty Woods (33rd, 2009) gave up two more in the 8th, highlighted by an RBI double from Smith.

Tony Delmonico (6th, 2008) was hit twice

The Quakes' bullpen was superb, particularly closer Steven Ames (17th, 2009) who struck out all 3 batters he faced on just 11 pitches to earn his league-leading 6th save as Rancho Cucamonga won 4-1.

Note the pitch count on the scoreboard


Before the game I was taking pictures outside the stadium. I guess I must have spooked somebody because a security guy came out and asked me what I was doing. He explained that a "guard" of his said I took his picture. I was rather amused by this contention; have Americans become so paranoid that someone taking pictures at a minor league ballpark needs to be questioned? Turns out the security guy was just checking id's for the $2 beer night so I'm not sure why he felt he had any authority to question me. Give small minds a bit of power though...

Not only was it $2 beer night, it was college night. Interesting mix. There were lots of college kids enjoying the evening, although I don't think too many of them were paying attention to the actual game, what with the cheap beer to be enjoyed.

Modesto will host the 2011 Carolina/California League All-Star Game on June 21st, with a classic car parade the day before.

The team was renamed the Nuts in 2005 after a fan poll. The area is a leader in walnut and almond production, hence their mascots are a walnut (below) and almond. The name does lead to the rather interesting cheer "Let's Go Nuts".

Next Up

Back to San Jose for the weekend. Arena Football tonight and MLS tomorrow. As well, hoping to get into the Sharks/Kings game 5 but with the Sharks looking to clinch, tickets could be more than I'm willing to pay. Check back in a couple of days to see what happened.




  1. Hi Sean. Nice stuff. Sparky Anderson did manage in Modesto, but the retired number 1 at John Thurman Field is for former owner Fred Anderson, who bought the team in the early-90s, decided to keep it in Modesto and spearheaded the stadium renovation effort. He died two weeks before the renovated ballpark opened on May 7, 1997.

    Also, every Thursday night is beer night/college night.

  2. Thanks, have made the correction.