Tag Archives: san diego padres affiliates’ ballparks

The Diamond, Lake Elsinore, California

The Diamond, Lake Elsinore, CALIFORNIA

Number of states:  13
States to go:  37

Number of games:  1
April 7, 2006 (Lake Elsinore Storm 3, Lancaster JetHawks 1)

Update August 2008:  To see Storm Account Executive David McCrory’s jaw-droppingly unprofessional email response to this ballpark review, scroll down.

(Click any image to see in a larger size.)

It all comes down to a conversation I had at the gift shop.  I went to this game alone, which mean I was carrying my scorebook as I purchased my mini-bat to add to my Wall Of Minor League Mini-Bats.  God as my witness, the saleswoman uttered the following:

“Are you a scout?”

This is sick and wrong on so many levels.  Let me count the ways:  First, why the hell would a scout buy a mini-bat?  Beyond

that, I cannot come up with any reason why a scout would even enter the gift shop.  So why did she ask me if I was a scout?  It had to be the scorebook.  She assumed that a scorebook meant I was a scout.  I believe that she had never noticed a fan carrying a scorebook before.

And why would anyone bother taking a scorebook to The Diamond at Lake Elsinore?  I see no reason why, because baseball is unimportant at this ballpark.  In spite of all of the positive things I’d heard about it, I was not at all impressed with this night at the ballpark.

Yes, I know.  I like promotions at the ballpark, and more promotions at the lower levels than at the higher levels.  But at Lake Elsinore, the promotions actually crossed the line and

interfered with the baseball.  For reasons I cannot fathom, they made April 7 a St. Patrick’s Day promotion.  They changed the baselines and bases to green.  They put either an “O” or a “Mc” in front of everyone’s name on the scoreboard.  This ranged from the confusing (since I missed player introductions and didn’t buy a program for a few innings, there was no reason why Skip Adams couldn’t actually be Skip McAdams) to the ludicrous and borderline-offensive, as in the photo here.  Often, the music and promotional crap distracted the PA announcer, who frequently would fail to announce a batter or a fielding change until after a few pitches had already been thrown.  That is completely unacceptable.  Get your promotions out of the way and do your primary job!

Seriously.  I’m not incapable of having fun.  I love “Bark at the Park” night at Everett Memorial Stadium.  I’m into trivia, silliness, and even bizarre behavior between innings.  I like Bill Veeck.  But once the inning begins, leave the game alone!  Don’t touch the field, and don’t touch the players’ names.  To do so is to send the message that baseball is of secondary or even tertiary importance to the night.  If it were, why bother having a team?  Why not just invite a couple of thousand people over 72 nights a year for themed parties?

The atmosphere of baseball-is-not-important trickles

down to every part of the park.  In addition to gift-shop workers who assume that one must be a scout to carry a scorebook, just consider the grassy hill by the right field foul pole.  Alone, this is a positive.  I imagine people hanging out on blankets, picnicking, enjoying the game, maybe throwing a ball around.  I imagine kids running around, too, burning off some steam.  At Lake Elsinore, what we have instead are kids constantly either rolling down the hill, running up the hill, or whaling on each other.  I have three siblings, so I know violence is a base component of any family, but what I saw on that hill was akin to Lord of the Flies.  I saw exactly one kid in the stands (more on him later), but dozens on the hill.  That’s right…families of Southern California had taken their kids to the ballpark where almost none of them watched baseball.

The park is lovely in architecture…nice tan bricks,

red seats, green roof.  The scoreboard is high quality for single-A ball.  The gift shop, the external concourse, the ad-covered monster wall in right field which includes a hand-operated scoreboard…all were very nice.  The Diamond’s location is far enough outside of L.A.’s endless, boring, monotonous suburbs that it’s lovely–near the actual Lake Elsinore and some mountains.  With other people running the team, I might have enjoyed this park, but I’m afraid I couldn’t see through the entire night of silliness…the Irish crap on the field, the obese guy in spandex throwing out T-shirts, the constant assault and battery on the lawn, the indifference of the scorer and PA announcer…all of it was too much to overlook.

What I’ll remember most from this night is the Storm’s Colt Morton

and a youngster sitting two seats to my left.  I’ve been keeping track of Colt since he had a big night in Eugene two years back.  I thought he might be a stud in the making, and I especially liked the fact that a guy named Colt wore #45.  He’s been promoted to high-A since then.  He’s switched to #41, alas.  But I like him a lot more now than I did before I saw him at The Diamond because of the way he interacted with the little kid nearby.  This was the second game of the year, and Colt stepped out before his first at-bat and gave the kid a really warm greeting.  “Hey!  Where were you last night?  I went 0-for-3!”  The kid absolutely ate it up, and all of us shouted “Go, Colt!” to get the kid to join us.  Colt even let the kid hold his bat’s donut between innings at one point.  It made for a very nice vibe around where I was sitting.

Even with that nice moment, however, I can’t say I was impressed with The Diamond.  I’d be interested to go back someday if the team were under new management who cared a little about baseball…who recognized that you don’t have to be a scout to pay attention.  When that happens, I’ll probably like the place better.

UPDATE AUGUST 2008: I get fairly consistent emails based on what I write on this site.  Sometimes I receive interesting remarks from people in the front office of minor league teams (such as the nice guys from Tennessee or Everett).  Occasionally I’ll get rage-filled notes from people with anger management problems who take things like frivolous ballpark websites too seriously.

But never before had I received a combination: a rage-filled email from a minor league front-office worker with anger management problems.  I present, verbatim, an email I received from David McCrory, a Storm account executive.

Subject: Storm Baseball

Hey Jerkoff,
I am the obese guy in the spandex throwing out t-shirts,
only it isn’t spandex, it’s red tights, part of the
Mr. Incredible costume which the kids and families really
enjoy if you bothered to look around you, and I wasn’t
throwing out t-shirts they were frisbees, so obviously you
have your facts wrong and you should probably spend more
time paying attention to detail. Now I can see why you need
a scorecard in the first place, you have the mental capacity
of a first-grader.
It’s OK though because we have your picture now and
we are going to have a ball this season making you look
like the complete MORON you are. Stay tuned for more.

Mr. McCrory correctly points out that I made a couple of mistakes on this page–from a distance in the night, I could not tell that he was wearing tights rather than spandex, or that he was throwing out frisbees rather than T-shirts.  If that’s a lack of “attention to detail,” well, I’m guilty, although, unlike the Storm, I try to focus on baseball-related details while at the ballpark.

However, let us consider the way that Mr. McCrory and the Storm’s GM and President (all of whom ignored my request for an explanation for McCrory’s behavior) feel it is appropriate to do business.  They either practice or condone the following behaviors:

1.  To address former customers who disagree with them as “Jerkoff.”
2.  To question those customers’ educational attainment (and to do so in a run-on sentence).
3.  To state that those who score the game are doing so because they are mentally challenged.
4.  To insult those customers three times in a 120-word email (“Jerkoff,” “mental capacity of a first-grader,” and “MORON.”)
5.  Perhaps most alarmingly, to insinuate that they have memorized a dissatisfied customer’s physical appearance and to threaten to humiliate that customer should he ever again appear at The Diamond.

Mr. McCrory’s threats don’t matter to me, since I don’t like the overbearing show the Storm puts on and therefore am very unlikely to return until their product indicates that they value baseball as more than a promotions transference device.  But still, I think it’s good that people see that the Storm’s front office apparently finds emails like this to be appropriate and acceptable.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7.5/10
Nice views.

Charm:  2/5
I like the physical ballpark, but anyone who tries this hard cannot possibly be considered charming.

Spectacle: 1/5
While I like a lot of promotions in single-A ball, this was overdone to the point of disgusting.

Team mascot/name:  2/5


Thunder, a Phillie Phanatic ripoff with a boring name, gives me a little love.  This is yet another thing the team got wrong.  The mascot used to be named Hamlet, which is perfect for Lake Elsinore (am I right, fellow English teachers?).  But no, they managed to screw this up by changing the name to Thunder, which mostly makes me think of flatulence.

Aesthetics:  4.5/5
Can’t deny that this is a lovely place.

Pavilion area: 4 /5

Scoreability:  1/5
Seriously, if I can’t trust them to tell me the batter on time, how can I trust them with anything of import?  Also, intentionally putting wrong names up was more confusing than funny.

Fans:  1.5/5
Memo to Storm fans:  There is baseball being played.  You might enjoy watching it.  (The cool kid who was friends with Colt bumps up this score.)

Intangibles:  0/5
As you’ve probably figured out by now, I spent most of the night annoyed at the ballpark’s wasted potential.  And to be called names by a member of the front office…well, that’s just so over the line that it’s comical.

TOTAL:  23.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Storm’s Chase Headley was the hero, driving in the winning runs with a double in the bottom of the eighth.

A.J. Shappi pitched beautifully for Lancaster, striking out 8 in 6 innings.

Civic Stadium, Eugene, Oregon

Civic Stadium, Eugene, OREGON

Number of states: 5
States to go: 45
Number of games: 2
First game:  July 3, 2004 (Eugene Emeralds 5, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 4)
Last game:  August 11, 2007 (Spokane Indians 5, Eugene Emeralds 3)

Civic Stadium is no longer used for affiliated minor league baseball as of the 2010 season.

(Click any image to view a larger version.)

As I approached Civic Stadium for the first time, I absolutely fell in love with the place.  Beautiful.  Charming.  Venerable.  Looking much the same as it did when it opened back in nineteen-twenty-whatever (just guessing on the date, but it has that Fenway and Tiger Stadium boxed-up,

team-logo-painted-on-the-outside-wood, held-up-by-beams feel about it.)  As I walked in with 10,000 others for fireworks night, I was convinced that I was in  for something special and that I’d feel about this beautiful old place the same way I did about Fenway Park, which is to say, totally entranced.  Over the course of the next few hours, however, I fell out of love with Civic Stadium.  There was just too much troublesome about it.  The experience was akin to seeing that my blind date looked like Sue Bird or Julie Delpy or Claire Danes, then finding little things wrong…okay, she’s got an annoying, nervous laugh…okay, she’s a whacked-out crystal-worshipping new ager…okay, she’s had three drinks to my one…until I finally, the many flaws become overwhelming and I can’t let the original charm win out.

I can already feel traditionalists breathing down my neck on this one, since there are so few places like Civic Stadium left in the world.  But my night at Civic Stadium was, if nothing else, an explication of reasons why 

stadiums no longer are designed like Civic Stadium and an argument that maybe the changes since are progress rather than regression.

Make no mistake.  I loved the look of the place!  It had all the charm of bygone days.  I felt connected to every fan who’d ever gone into the place.  The beams, the real grass, the bizarre asymmetry of it (the seating bowl reaches almost all the way down the right field line, but doesn’t even make it as far as third base along the left field line).  It’s accidental charm, and I love it.

The Eugene fans were fantastic.  This was a sellout for fireworks night.  Michelle The Girlfriend and 

I arrived an hour early (after a wonderful day meandering down the gorgeous Oregon coast) to poke around the place and to find good general admission seats.  Whoops!  We needed to arrive a lot earlier than that to get good seats.  We did okay–only about 3/4 of the way up to the top, only about 3/4 of the way to the end of the right-field stands–but I was highly impressed with how early the fans showed up to claim their stake.  Maybe it’s different on a non-holiday Tuesday night in August, but even so, for so many to arrive that early speaks well for the Emeralds and their fans.

Here’s where the problems begin, though.  Although the stadium technically can hold 10,000, it certainly can’t do so comfortably.  While I’m sure that the season-ticket holders were enjoying 

their seats with backs and arms on them, we in general admission were horribly uncomfortable.  Whenever anyone wanted to leave (and I’m trying not to harbor enmity towards the butthead who left and returned to my row FIVE TIMES during the game), the entire row would either have their feet stepped on or their backs jostled.  There just wasn’t enough room to sit.  Even while at rest, I had to position my knees and feet just so to avoid contact with the fine young family in front of me.  Net result:  as the game progressed, we all became more and more uncomfortable.

Strangely, the Emeralds did little to keep its large crowd–who clearly were rearing to have a very good time–active.  Music choices were baffling.  “Deep in the Heart of Texas”?  What the hell?  Why not just throw in “Chicago,” 

“New York, New York,” and “God Save the Queen” while you’re at it?  Why not throw in “Streets of Philadelphia,” just to be both geographically inaccurate and breathtakingly depressing?  No wait…they DID play “My City in Ruins”!  Strange, strange choices.

STILL, I was eager to enjoy this beautiful old ballpark, but I actually became a little concerned for my safety at some points.  A hard foul ball was smacked back into one of the beams on the first-base side and shattered a light bulb there.  Surely, at some point in the last 80 years, someone must have at least realized the necessity of putting a cage around that.  But later, things got even more bizarre.  In the eighth inning, the entire bank of lights went out on the first-base side.

Salem-Keizer catcher Charlie Babineaux was ready to

take his first pitch from Eugene pitcher Jake Upwood when the lights went out.  Babineaux called time,  which was granted, but the home plate umpire seemed to want to continue play in the twilight combined with outfield lighting.  But when the Salem-Keizer manager stepped in, play was delayed while they fixed the lights.  Okay, I understand that maybe this could have happened anywhere.  But I doubt it.  The lights over the left field pavilion looked only slightly less old than the stadium itself, and they’re the only ones that went out.  Plus–and am I the only one who could possibly have been thinking this?–if it’d been a blown fuse or a small explosion that caused those lights to go out, those wooden bleachers would have taken about a minute and a half to become a hellish inferno, and when this sucker was built, emergency exits and sprinkler systems were not exactly high in architects’ minds.  So while I’m sitting and thinking about the tragedy at England’s Bradford City football grounds, the Emeralds’ staff could be doing some things to make sure we’re all having a good time, like playing some music or having the mascot run around and do the good stuff mascots do.  Two problems:

1.  The music people.  At a time the audience needed something to do–“Minnie the Moocher,” “YMCA,” hell, even the damn 

Macarena–the sound guys played Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First,” the radio call of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World,” and “Dueling Banjos.”  Audience participation possibilities?  None.  So we sat in our uncomfortable seats for 29 minutes doing nothing.

2.  The mascot.  There isn’t one.  Come on.  Is this even possible in the low minors?  I must admit, I didn’t notice its absence until about the fifth inning, but I felt a little bit cheated, like if I’d showed up to an NL game and found they decided to use the designated hitter.  It’s just not the rules!  Low minor league teams simply MUST have a mascot…and during the big delay, this was a notable absence, since all we had to look at were the two umpires sitting around waiting for the lights–lights that were probably only slightly younger than Thomas Edison’s original–to kick back on.

In the end, as much as I wanted to love this place, I just couldn’t overlook these problems.  I felt uncomfortable.  I even felt a little unsafe.  And I totally felt like I was missing part of the minor league baseball experience.  Even the fireworks show didn’t redeem it…it only lasted about 7 minutes (although they had 15 minutes worth of fireworks…they just fired them all off in 7 minutes, thus eliminating any sense of buildup or climax to the show).

Michelle and I have agreed that, if we win the lottery for more than, say, $100 million, we will purchase the Eugene Emeralds and clean this stadium up a bit…maintaining its old charm without sacrificing the many, many comforts that Civic Stadium sacrifices.  Yes, I am a traditionalist, but not militantly so, and Civic Stadium goes beyond my limits.

UPDATE:  I received a nice email from a University of Oregon student who works concessions for the Emeralds, encouraging me to give the team another chance–saying that, among other things, the team “dreads” the July 3rd/4th games.  And I also got the sense that many of the problems I had with the ballpark were a result of a crowded night.  So Michelle and I headed back down to Eugene for a random Saturday night game in 2007.  The team impressed me with their low-key calmness that ngiht, and I found it was worth every penny not to sit in general admission.  I will adjust my score a little bit accordingly (although that first visit was so frustrating that it weighs a little bit heavier).

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  8.5/10
Quite lovely here, with local promotions, a view of the Cascades, and many fine folks who clearly were from Oregon and Eugene.  No question where I was.

Charm:  3/5
Yes, Civic Stadium has charm due to its age.  But I don’t find cramped, backless seats, people colliding with my back or stepping on my toes every time they leave, endless concession lines, my toes up some poor person in the next row’s butt, a lengthy power outage, and the very real fear that we could burn alive to be very charming. (But on the second visit, it was quite lovely.  Just don’t go there on a night where it’s packed unless you have a reserved seat.)

Spectacle: 1/5
Could have used a bit more for low-A ball.

Team mascot/name:  1.5/5
The name is fine…the mascot nonexistent.

Aesthetics:  5/5
Say what you will, but the place is gorgeous.

Pavilion area:  4/5
Fine.  A bit cramped, but overall not bad.

Scoreability:  4/5
Lineups were available.  Some close decisions were not made clear, however.

Fans:  5/5
Arrived early and maintained excellent enthusiasm under difficult circumstances.

Intangibles:  3/5
Pluses:  Good game, fireworks, a polite letter from a ballpark worker that did all but apologize for the lamentable first night.  Minuses:  Power outage, aching back, and fireworks show that packed 15 minutes worth of gunpowder into 7 minutes.  I didn’t leave satisfied on any count…until three years later.

TOTAL:  35/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Eugene’s Colt Morton (who wears #45…get it?) appears to be a stud-in-the-making.  He homered twice, which made it 4 homers in 5 days for him.

Salem-Keizer’s Chase Smith gets his first professional loss without surrendering a hit:  a leadoff walk, a sacrifice bunt, a deep flyout, and a wild pitch score Craig Johnson with the winning run.

Mitch Moreland homers to put the 2007 game in the bag for Spokane.