A Doug's Life: 'Take Me Out to The Diamond'

The stadium is located in nearby Lake Elsinore, but John Denver wouldn't mind annexing it for the city of Menifee.

"This is our stadium," said Denver, the mayor of Menifee, Friday night just outside the home dugout. "It's the closest pro ballpark we've got. We're working on that road (Newport Road) to get people in here easier. It should be called Menifee Stadium."

For the record, the stadium is called The Diamond, home to the Lake Elsinore Storm, a Class A minor league affiliate of the San Diego Padres. But as Denver noted, it's just a short drive over the hill on Newport/Railroad Canyon Road from Menifee.

And for this one night, Menifee could lay claim to it.

Denver threw out the first pitch and several Menifee residents and area dignitaries were on hand for Menifee Community Night at the stadium. The Storm gave them something to cheer about with a 6-3 victory over the visiting Bakersfield Blaze.

Denver clowned around with the big green mascot Thunder before the game, then sat behind the Storm dugout with a large Menifee contingent including Tom Fuhrman, mayor pro tem; Dorothy Wolons, president of the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce; and Chris Porrazzo, a deputy who was honored in pregame ceremonies as the Perris Sheriff's Station Officer of the Year.

One can hardly blame Menifee folks for taking advantage of a night out at the ballpark -- for a few reasons. One, it was Fireworks Friday. Two, it's just minutes from home. Three, you don't have to take out a loan to get through the gates.

At The Diamond, a reserved seat down the right or left field lines costs you just $9. Box seats near home plate set you back $10. Compare that to prices for the Padres, Angels or Dodgers, where you pay at least $17 to sit near the parking lot or $70-80 for a decent seat.

And where else can you hear little kids announce batters over the PA system and watch a giant green fuzzy creature lead youngsters across the outfield in "Thunder's Fun Run" between innings?

Minor league ballparks have a small-town charm you just can't find in a 50,000-seat major league stadium. Here, you can watch the major leaguers of tomorrow -- such names as Storm outfielder Rico Noel, who came into the game hitting .325 with 11 RBIs. But you can also walk down to the right field corner and do somersaults on a grassy berm with the little tykes.

To prevent an excessive amount of home runs to right field (only 310 feet to the foul pole), a wall approximately 30 feet high is the Storm's version of Fenway Park's Green Monster. Only this one is plastered with ads for everything from Juice it Up to Farmer John to the Lake Elsinore Animal Hospital.

Thunder the mascot was joined during the pregame festivities by a giant pink bunny named Jackpot. Andy Armadillo, the mascot for Texas Roadhouse, took part in the outfield Fun Run. While the grounds crew dragged the infield after the fifth inning, the crowd of 5,024 was entertained by a break dancing gorilla.

Yeah, this is minor league baseball. Don't you love it?

During the pregame festivities, kids gathered at the rail overlooking the Storm dugout. In L.A., San Diego or Anaheim, they would almost certainly be ignored -- or told to find a seat. Here, a "regular" named Ryan, age 7, was actually recognized and approached by outfielder Everett Williams, who chatted with the youngster about Legos.

"I'm part of the team," Ryan proudly stated.

The Storm put a smile on Ryan's face when they took the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh. After Chris Bisson drove home two runs with a single, designated hitter Tommy Medica hit his second home run of the game, a towering three-run shot to left field for a 6-2 lead.

Not even the dancing Baskin Robbins sundae could top that.

So if you're looking for a fun night out in the Menifee area, put the Newport Road traffic jam behind you and head on out to The Diamond. Tonight is Star Wars Night. Show up in costume and you get in free.

Where's my Darth Vader outfit?


  1. I would have to agree with you Doug, I caught a game there a few weeks with my brother and his girlfriend and I had more fun than at overpriced Dodger stadium. There's an overall family feeling to that place. He knows a couple of young pitchers he met while living in Kentucky and we all had dinner after the game. Had a blast!