Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 10, Modesto Nuts: The Transcendent, Mindbending Beauty of Our Planet; Belching; and Testicle Jokes

After yesterday's Lancaster game we braced ourselves for the most (self-imposed) brutal day of driving of the trip. We drove 1.5 hours to Bakersfield for the night, then got up and out the door by 8am to head west to the coast. We wanted to drive the most scenic portion of Highway 1 up the coast through Big Sur before swinging all the way back inland for a night game in Modesto. It was a 4 hour investment; the groups calling this insane versus well-worth it are probably split cleanly along the lines of those who have been to Big Sur or not. For the uninitiated, it's mountains that end by dropping right off into the ocean.

On the way up we were trying to remember which vista it was where Zach had stopped before to see some elephant seals gathering on the beach. Conveniently, there was a sign for the Elephant Seal Vista.

Zach's spirit animal: sleep most of the day, occasionally belligerent around others for no apparent reason, communicates entirely in belches. They sound disturbingly like Rick from Rick and Morty.

We then drove up into the mountains and clouds and careened around the treacherous and descriptively-named Coastal Cliffs Highway. We made a few stops along the way for particularly beautiful views.

Our first vista stop at Ragged Point on the Sky Deck. This is a pretty good indication of what you get at Big Sur: cliffs going right into the sea.

Between this and our next picture we stopped to do a brief portion of the Cruickshank Trail, which starts at the side of the road and switchbacks straight up a huge mountain. Zach did the whole trail earlier another trip, but your journeymen were a combination and lazy and hurried. You know what, let's go with hurried.

Our third stop: McWay Falls. It's a waterfall that drops right into the ocean. Zach's favorite view in the whole park. Pat wasn't 100% convinced this was real life and not CGI.

After this was burned it for Modesto and the Modesto Nuts, arriving perfectly just a few minutes before first pitch. After the game we had to burn another 1.5 hours that turned into 2.5 hours thanks to post-game traffic (!!), two distinct simultaneous accidents immediately ahead of us on the highway, and a modest 60% reduction in lanes on the Bay Bridge. We did finally arrive in SF to stay with our new gracious hosts and latest Friends of the Journeymen Whether They Like It Or Not, Lexi and Andrew. Anyway, onward to the game!


1. The stadium's broad, flowing, open concourses had a nice layout. The game wasn't that well-attended, but you can tell that even with a packed house it wouldn't feel too claustrophobic, and there was plenty of room for concession lines. Sure, Modesto land prices are better than San Francisco or San Jose, but we were still impressed relative to those parks.

Look at all that sweet, beautiful concrete.

2. Speaking of concessions, they offered a number of nice unique options. They were big on combo meals, which included fries, a pickle, and a drink for $11. That comes out to quite a bit less when purchasing all those items separately at other similar parks. The caramel cheesecake chimichanga was the most creative (horrifying?) item we saw, but it was disappointingly small. On the beverage side, this is the only park we've seen where you could order a Sasparilla.

3. But the coolest thing about the concessions: this wasn't a Pepsi Park (Huzzah!). It wasn't a Coke park (BOOOOOOOOOO!). It was an RC Park (well damn but that's interesting!). RC, Diet RC, and Allsport (the independent Ade) were all featured. They also served Rockstar energy...we think we saw Monster most of the trip, so this fits with the theme.

4. The admin offices and team store were located in a trailer, like at an overfilled school. As a teacher, this amused Ben perhaps more than it should have.

5. The stadium featured good field-edge access, particularly in left field. You could hang out right by the fence with no seats in the way; you could even heckle the visitor's bullpen if that's your thing.

Hecklin' seats. Er, standing spaces.

6. For the on-field promos they appeared to choose people by lot, though several of the contests were still restricted for children of some ages. Boo.

7. The home team had a nice bullpen, with a raised stand for players to sit in the shade. The visitors had a stretch of dirt in left field. Your Journeymen fully support home field advantage.

8. Instead of enclosed luxury suites they mostly had open "Party Pavilions" where those club suites would be. At least expose yourself to the outside world when sequestering yourselves from it.

9. Fireworks on "rockets" and "bombs" during the anthem. We support anything that livens up and/or drowns out the anthem performance, and this was only the second time we'd seen such fireworks on the trip.

10. The Nuts game was a bit heavy on advertising. The hands-down worst offender was an on-field trivia contest sponsored by a local car wash, where the question was "Which of the following scents of air fresheners does *insert local car wash name here* offer?" followed by 3 very plausible choices. So let's get this straight: you sponsor the contest, the question is about you, and it's a complete crapshoot to answer? And what was the fabulously valuable prize for all this work? A free car wash. And free air fresheners for the whole row. Pinch us, we must be dreaming.

11. Video commercials on the Moderately-Jumbo-Tron between innings. 

12. But also video intros for all the Nuts in addition to walk-up music. Really high production value for a MiLB outfit. Call it a wash.

13. While being very supportive of their players, the Nuts relished in trolling their visitors with such walk-up songs as Dancing Queen and Dude Looks Like a Lady. Again, with the supporting of home field advantage, &c.

14. The program had a solid features:ads ratio and included a scorecard and a comprehensive guide to the offerings at every concession stand in the park (very friendly for out-of-towners).

15. The crowd started stomping on the aluminum bleachers to make noise completely unprompted from the PA. Excellent work, crowd.

16. There was one couch in the stands, which one lucky pair/group of fans gets upgraded to each game. Unique seating options are a good thing, and we'll accept an upgrade by random lottery.

17. The "Potato Sack" race. In no, way, shape or form should this ever be referred to as a "Nutsack Race" in such a family-friendly environment.

18. A BALK! We finally saw a balk! Er, a called balk!

19. The scoreboard displayed, in addition to the regular information, the temperature. Because that's critical info while sitting outside.

20. Twice during the game they had "MVP Moments" between innings, highlighting important groups at the park. The second time was a group of fans from France - OK, impressive. The first time, though, was a husband and wife pair of Fellow Travelers (um, we mean MiLB roadtrippers) who had supposedly seen 53 games that summer. Guess we can't fault Modesto for not knowing we were coming; but they don't even have an internationally-recognized (read: one regular reader in Venezuela...or more precisely, displaying a Venezuelan IP address) blog! WE TOIL IN OBSCURITY. 

21. The team had 3 mascots: an almond (gangster/angry), a walnut (goofy), and a pistachio (feminine, and she was showing some sweet green cleavage).

Mixed Nuts. To be fair, the team name is non-specific.

22. 2 of the 3 mascots featured prominently on gear at the Team Store, which is good because who wants to wear a shirt that just says Nuts on it?

23. Speaking of the mascots, the lighter costumes (almond and pistachio) were manned by rather athletic wearers. They were doing cartwheels and backflips before the post-game fireworks.

24. Seamless segue: the fireworks, while less impressive than other shows, started within 2 minutes of the game ending. It was really nice not to have to sit there and wait for the grounds crew to pack down the field and such first. As much as we love us some dirt-pounding excitement.

25. Post-game traffic! Somehow they created a Major League traffic jam with a meager-for-MiLB crowd. Invest in an off-duty police officer or two, Modesto.

26. At one point all the children in the crowd began screaming at the top of their lungs after being prompted to by the PA. This was two days after Rancho Cucamonga and we still had PTSD.

27. Season ticketholder names were listed on the sides of each section. That's a nice way to thank your supporters, and pretty unique to boot. 

28. In the Meet the Players section at the back of the program, it was a tight race between "Chicken, Beans, and Rice" and "Chicken, Rice, and Beans" for the players' favorite food. It ended up 2-2, with 1 vote each for pizza and "salmon and crab legs" (aspirations of the Majors, Ryan?). All 4 CBR/CRB votes were from the Dominican Republic; we're guessing they all named Spanish dishes that wouldn't make any sense to Modesto fans, so an intern looked them up on Wikipedia and used the description of ingredients from the first sentence. Dibs on the seat next to the guy who enjoys beans 3rd rather than 2nd in his meals.

CRAPPY Metrics:

1. Beer: While the grounds crew is out, beer is $2.50/pint. That's a neat mechanic we haven't seen elsewhere. Normal prices weren't bad either, at $4.75/$5.75 for crap/actual beer. 7.5/10 points.

2. Most Caloric Concession Item: We really, really, really thought this was going to be the cheesecake chimichanga, but it was too damn small. However, the combo meals - sold as a single concession item, and therefore counting for this category - looked pretty caloric. We'll give it to the pork fajitas meal (yes, fajitas with fries). On the "healthy" side, you could get a turkey burger...c'mon, who you kiddin'? 6/10 points.

This, children, is disappointment. Delicious disappointment, but disappointment nonetheless.

3. Funniest Name: In honor of ze Germans, we'll give it Kyle von Tunglen. 7-1 = 6/10 points.

4. Most Famous Celebrity: Well, the other MiLB roadtrippers would be tops in our book. Hey, this is our book! 5/10 points.

5. Promotion: We went on Hollywood Night, which several California teams had - we figured we should hit one of them. They had a red carpet with paparazzi cutouts with flashbulbs (they looked better on the way out after dark) and a (glamorous?) fan photo booth, but the best part by far was the pregame loudspeaker music. Great movie themes instead of the normal pop-trash and bad country: Indiana Jones, MIB, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, James Bond, and The Lego Movie were all featured. There was also some unprompted Zeppelin, which also rocks. 6/10 points.

6. Men's Room: We're torn here. 2 of the 3 restrooms featured 2 urinals, but the other featured a nigh-full complement of 9. We'll take the mean: (8+8+1)/3 = 5.67/10 points.

7. Crowd: The unprompted stomping on the aluminum bleachers was awesome, but it was an otherwise vanilla crowd. Some people even seemed annoyed when we stood up for the last out. 4/10 points.

8. California Bingo: We'll give two outrageously liberal points for our friend Alex who joined us in a soccer jersey. 2/10 points.

I would buy drugs from that nut. Not the guy in the soccer jersey.

Bonus Points: +1 for differential beer pricing, +1 for differential bullpens,  +1 for open concourses, +3 for RC Cola, +1 for admin trailer, +1 for on-field by lot, +1 for luxury "pavilions", +1 for differential bullpens, -1 for horrible trivia and general over-advertising, +1 for intro videos, +1 for trolling opposing batters, +1 for couch upgrade, +1 for balk, +1 for scoreboard temperature, +2 for triple mascots, +1 for mascot athleticism, +1 for rapid fireworks, -1 for postgame traffic, -3 for children screaming, +1 for STH names on sections.

Total: 57.17 points on our completely arbitrary scale. There's a lot to recommend Modesto: good park layout, solid seating, good concessions. The crowd was a bit small for a Friday, which is surprising given that we assume you could a lot worse in Modesto on a Friday night. 7/10 points.

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