The Old Nut Tree Dairy Farm Stadium

‘Save the Nut Tree!”

“Save agriculture!”

“Save the Steelheads!”

These are all familiar themes here in S’lano County, where men are men and women drive tomato harvesters to the bowling alley on Friday nights.

Unfortunately, none of these rallying cries seem to inspire the collective imagination for more than about 15 minutes every six months or so.

Vacaville’s historic Nut Tree site – once the toast of Northern California travelers – has become a haven for itinerant jack rabbits and seasonal tumbleweed infestations. The Solano Steelheads haven’t picked up a baseball bat since August and agricultural land is being gobbled up by rampant residential development and fast food restaurants.

Even dairies are having a tough time finding a home on the bucolic county’s sprawling pasturelands. Cows, it seems, smell funny and sometimes make noises that could lower neighboring property values …

Just about everyone seems to agree this is a sorry state of affairs and there’s plenty of head shaking around the bar at TJ’s Tavern. But nobody’s ready to step up to the plate with the kind of good old American know-how needed to save any of these endangered S’lano County treasures.

There is hope, though, if we move quickly and decisively to preserve the region’s unique heritage.

The trick will be to combine all three of these beloved local institutions into one self-supporting enterprise that will be attractive, fun and educational while paying for itself and providing milkshakes for thirsty children everywhere.

If we play this right, the old Nut Tree will be alive, well and bigger than ever before.

Yes, it’s time to open the doors on The Old Nut Tree Dairy Farm Stadium – bring the cows and the baseball fans will follow!

This is really a very simple concept. Kids like baseball and ice cream and cows. Parents like anything that will keep their kids away from drugs and automatic weapons. And senior citizens like anything that will keep their grandchildren away from hard time in San Quentin State Prison.

Think about it – what could be better than a colorful demonstration dairy (i.e.: ice cream tastings, cow-milking contests and a bully-go-round) at the site of a low-mileage baseball stadium?

The possibilities are endless. Do this right and everybody goes home happy with one of those goofy little milk mustaches.

Admittedly, we might have to change the name of the Solano Steelheads to the Vaca Vacas or the Gorgeous Guernseys, but it’s a small price to pay for saving the Nut Tree, agriculture a nd minor league baseball in one master stroke.

Throw in some comely milkmaid tour guides, book weekend concerts by the Beverly Beer Bellys and offer udder-shaped hot air balloon rides in the springtime and Vacaville will once again be pulling in wide-eyed tourists from Antioch to Arbuckle.

Please, don’t fall all over yourselves thanking me. Seeing the smiles on children’s faces when they stream through the gates of The Old Nut Tree Dairy Farm Stadium will be thanks enough …

Originally published November 17, 2002

Is that a bank or a baseball stadium?

Call me grumpy, ill-tempered and irascible, but I’m getting really, really tired of trying to remember what we’re supposed to be calling the Solano Steelheads’ ballpark at any given moment.

The ballfield in question – on the site of Vacaville’s old Nut Tree complex – was christened La Mesa RV Stadium when it opened last year to acknowledge the dealership’s support of the new facility.

Not one of the more inspirational ballpark names in the Western Hemisphere, but then neither was Wrigley Field.

I would have preferred Steelhead Stadium, Nut Tree Field or even Portner Park in recognition of the Steelheads’ enterprising owner, but nobody asked me so I grudgingly went along with the RV name.

The monicker, I reasoned, might catch on and someday baseball fans from Cecilville to Catawissa would warmly reminisce about the great times and exciting baseball that they witnessed in the grand old La Mesa RV Stadium.

Oldtimers would tell their awestruck grandchildren about the time they saw Whitey Snorg smack one out of the park and off the tail of an inbound Cessna at the neighboring Nut Tree Airport…

“Yup, sonny, that was baseball at the ol’ La Mesa!” Grandpa would recall before popping a handful of nitroglycerin tablets.

You know, sort of a tradition kind of thing spanning the generations?

But along came Travis Credit Union and, with the stroke of a pen on a naming rights contract, La Mesa RV Stadium was transformed into Travis Credit Union Park.

It’s commendable that a local business like Travis Credit Union is ready and willing to support a Vacaville baseball stadium, but this ongoing name changing is giving me a headache.

Besides, credit unions should be named like credit unions and athletic fields should be named after athletes and predatory animals and obscure local landmarks.

Put up a banner, paint a mural on the side of the grandstands, fly a credit union blimp around the Nut Tree or distribute credit union ball caps and T-shirts to the fans, but give me a ballpark with a name that sounds like a ballpark.

I suppose I started getting touchy about all this stuff a few years back when some freewheeling fellows from Silicon Valley rolled up the freeway with fat wads o’ cash and promptly smashed a Bay Area tradition into little tiny pieces by changing the name of Candlestick Park to (shudder!) 3COM Park.

And in Colorado, venerable Mile High Stadium – home of the Denver Broncos – is about to have its name changed to Invesco Field at Mile High following a $60 million “revenue stream” from Invesco.

Marvelous.

“C’mon, kids, the Broncos are playin’ the Seahawks at Invesco!”

Yeah, and Citibank’s playing Chase Manhattan on Wall Street…

Again, it’s wonderful that corporate America is willing to step up to the plate and help bolster regional sports facilities. The question is, do they have to do it to such an extent that they overwhelm the very identity of the stadium they’re supporting?

And then there’s Vacaville, where the local stadium hasn’t yet even had a chance to develop an identity because it’s been changing its name on an annual basis.

Let’s all hope the septic tank industry doesn’t catch onto the naming rights game anytime soon…

Originally published February 11, 2001