EDITOR’S NOTE: With the Lake Elsinore Storm baseball season right around the corner – Opening Day is April 7th – we thought we’d re-visit Chris Baptiste’s engaging Storm article from last year. Also, pencil in April 21st on your calendars, as Taste of Temecula will be hosting their Mix It Up Happy Hour at the Diamond Club. Stay tuned for details. 😉
Spring is in full bloom here in the Temecula Valley, and what better way to celebrate than to participate in, perhaps, the most American of all activities – taking in a baseball game. Sunshine…the crack of the bat…cheering as the hitter stretches a single into a double…hot dogs with relish…a cold, cheap, 20 ounce beer…t-shirt give-a-ways…dropping your popcorn as you reach out for that foul ball that was finally hit your way…ice cream in little baseball helmets…people watching at its most entertaining. Is there any other popular activity that defines us a people more than a baseball game?
I think not. Therefore, I took advantage of the 80+ degree weather this past Sunday and drove over to Lake Elsinore to watch our Storm (the San Diego Padres’ single-A affiliate team) take on the High Desert Mavs. It was California League baseball at its finest. Not only do we have one of the best minor league organizations in our own backyard, we’re also blessed with one of the finest minor league ballparks in all of California – the Diamond Stadium.
The Diamond provides an intimate – almost quaint – baseball viewing experience. Holding up to almost 8,000 fans, every seat is a winner – great sightlines, a very open feel (no over-hanging roof, so you can take full advantage of the sun & the lake breeze), and the ability to sit so close to the field you may notice the sweat dripping from the pitcher’s brow. Well, maybe not, but it feels like it. For a mere $10 box seat ticket, I sat right behind home plate – 9 rows up from the back screen. I’ve been to dozens of professional baseball games in my sports-loving lifetime (Padres, Angels, Dodgers, Giants, A’s), but never have I felt like I was almost standing in the on-deck circle myself, ready to face the pitcher’s best stuff. The Storm’s home stadium is indeed a treasure.
The Storm have different cool weekly promotions for each of their home games, and this being Sunday, it was “Kid’s Day.” Presented by Rady Children’s Hospital, get a load of what was in store for the little ones: they enjoyed a free fun zone with bounce houses and jolly jumps one hour before the game, were able to run the bases post-game, and some lucky kids announced in the press box and on field. A couple youngsters were the bat boy/girl for an inning and there was a “fun run” from foul pole to foul pole. Pretty cool, eh? I must admit, watching all the kids participate in the above activities plus the in-between inning give-a-ways and games (musical chairs is always a winner) was a highlight of the day. There may be nothing as thoroughly entertaining as watching a couple dozen 6- to 10-year olds chasing after foul balls hit in the hillside lawn area in right field along the first base foul line. Pure laughter.
Did someone ask about the food and drink selection? Thought so. To be honest, this being my first minor league baseball games, I wasn’t sure what to expect via their food and drink menu. And while the normal fare is definitely covered – hot dogs (kids & adult size), ice cream, French fries, sodas, domestic beer, etc. – I was pleasantly surprised at some of their “upgraded” offerings. You could select a Philly Cheese Steak, Blue Bunny ice cream, or a Personal Pan pizza. Or if you want a little more bang for your buck, choose one of their Diamond Deals – the Thunder Meal includes chicken tenders, fries, and a soda for $7.50 and the Kid’s Meal comes with mini corn dogs, fries or fruit, and a soda for a mere $6. I stepped up to their Louisiana Hot Link (which puts the “world famous” Dodger Dog to shame) for just $5 and washed it down with one of my favorites, Widmer Hefeweizen ($6). The living was definitely good…
Speaking of living well, after the 6th inning (with the Mavs in control 4-2), I decided to head down to the Diamond Club, the stadium’s restaurant, located in left field along the third base foul line. What a fantastic full-service bar/restaurant to escape the heat (we all know what summers are like out here), check out other sporting events on their 5 big screen plasma TV’s (the NBA playoffs were on today), and catch up with friends while keeping an eye on the game on the field. This definitely did not feel “minor league” to me – this was a fun spot close to what you would find at PETCO Park or Angel Stadium. So I ordered a Black Market Brewing Co. Hefeweizen (a fantastic Bavarian-style Hefe) and stepped down to the Tiki Terrace, right outside the Diamond Club (and right above the Storm’s bullpen). Another great outdoor area of the park, the Tiki Terrace holds 30-100 people and, like the Diamond Club itself, is a great spot to meet with friends, socialize, kick-back, and watch the game. This may have become my favorite section of the stadium.
Whether you decide to arrive with friends for a game during the week (check out the next “Thirsty Thursday” for $1 beers and sodas) or you take the entire family for a Saturday or Sunday game, you can’t beat a Storm baseball game for entertainment value. Tickets are only $8 to $10 (seniors and military are offered further discounts), parking is a mere $5 (RV’s are $10), and their food menu is very reasonable. For about the price of taking the family to see the newest released movie, come out to Diamond Stadium and take in a baseball game. Not only will you be supporting our Lake Elsinore Storm, but you’ll also be guaranteed a great time, even if you’re not a huge baseball fan. See you there, my fellow apple pie-eating Americans.