Wednesday, April 24, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Lake Elsinore Diamond, Lake Elsinore, California

UpTake Travel Gem

The home of the single A Storm is a true "diamond in the rough." Here is an updated look.
Lake Elsinore Diamond is the home of the single-A, minor league Lake Elsinore Storm baseball team, an affiliate of the San Diego Padres.  As such, current (and former) Padres stars such as Jake Peavy and Ben Johnson have done time here.  Before the Padres, they were afiliated with the Angels, so if you were here at a certain time, you'd have seen future Halos like Darin Erstad, John Lackey, and Frankie Rodriguez.  Here are the stats:

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Dirk Hansen under CC-BY license

Lake Elsinore Diamond
Opened: 1994
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $22 million
Capacity: 6,066
Field Dimensions: Left Field-330 ft., Centerfield-400 ft., Right Field-310 ft.
Home teams: Lake Elsinore Storm (California League) 1994-present
Events Attended: 3 games

This is one of the best accessible stadiums I've seen.  Wheelchairs can enter through any gate, which will deposit you right onto the field level concourse.  Chairs sit at the top of the field level, like many stadiums.  There are no obstructions at all.  The councourse is open, so if you go to the snack bar you can still see the game.

No one, and I mean no one, has a better ticket purchasing system for wheelchair users.  Online ticketing is available on their site.  First you pick which level of ticket you want.  Next, a seating chart is presented and you just click on the seats you want...some of which are labeled as accessible.  It's easy to arrange your group with this system.  Last time we went, the seating chart option made it easy to see that our group would be better arranged with the wheelchair and three companions in the top row with the four people who made up the rest of our group directly in front instead of spread out down the row.

It can get very hot here but a roof has been built over the seats giving you shade.  A generous amount of handicapped parking spots are available right at the gate.  Ticket prices range from $10 to $14.  Another feature I like are their promotions.  Margarita Mondays feature $2 margaritas. Wednesday is Wacky Weenie day with free hot dogs. Thursdays are Thirsty Thursdays with $1 beer.  Every Friday home game has a fireworks show afterward.

The only knock I has was that there are not many lodging options in Lake Elsinore.  It's a 90-minute drive in good traffic from my house and I'd like to have the option to spend the night, but new hotels are opening.  There's now a Holiday Inn Express, a Quality Inn, and a Best Western in town. 

All in all, a great place to see a game.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated for 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Jay Littleton Ball Park, Ontario, California

Out in the hot, dusty, and industrial flatlands of the Inland a neighborhood that's more barrio than middle america...this stadium rises like a mirage.  A throwback to another era, Jay Littleton Ball Park is a relic of a ballpark, perfectly preserved and lovingly maintained.  First the facts...

Year built: 1935
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $20,000
Capacity: 2,500
Field dimensions: Left field: 347, Center field: 402 ft., Right field: 347
Home teams: California Angels (Pacific Coast League - Spring Training) 1937-1942; Ontario Orioles (Sunset League) 1947, Chaffey High School - present
Events attended: two games

An antique, wooden stadium with covered grandstand, the park now hosts only amatuer ball but it would be a mistake to say it's seen better days.  Step through the entrance and it's like going back in time.  Cozy and relaxing, the bleachers invite fans to sit back, relax and comisserate over a game.

It's such a perfect example of an old-time stadium that Hollywood has been a regular visitor here.  "The Babe," "A League of Their Own," and "The X-Files" have all used it as a set.

For wheelchairs, there are two spots reserved right behind home plate, although just about anywhere in the front row would accomodate one.  Tickets?  Not here, if they do charge admission to anything, they weren't at the tournament we attended.  Just walk right in.

Although there is a full-kitchen installed behind home plate...underneath the old press box...a taco truck sometimes sets up just outside the gate with delicious carne asada and chicken tacos plus some very good funnel cakes.  In fact, the night we were there we declared them the best funnel cakes we've ever had.  The tacos are $1.25 each, funnel cakes, $3.99.

If the taco truck isn't there, don't worry.  Go two blocks west on 4th Street to Mi Chula Linda for great tacos and burritos to go and take with you to the game.

The only downside to this beautiful ballpark is that no local minor league or college teams use it.  It would be perfect for a D-III team like La Verne to use, especially since their stadium is about to be torn down in the next few years.  The Long Beach Armada, taking a season off in a dispute with their landlord, should consider moving here where they could make an alliance with other Ontario pro teams like the Ontario Reign hockey team.  I know I'd be a regular here if someone like that would move in.

For now, come on over just about any Saturday night during baseball season and enjoy a game by some of the proud amatuers that now play here.  Grab some tacos and a funnel cake and you're set.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Raley Field, Sacramento, California

Raley Field is home to the Sacramento River Cats, the AAA affiliate of the Oakland A’s. Sitting just west of Sacramento proper, in West Sacramento to be exact, it’s just a short stroll over the bridge from Old Sacramento. Many A’s players have passed through here, in fact, the day we were there a couple of Major Leaguers in the twilight of their career…pitchers Brett Tomko and John Halama…were in the game. Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson was the River Cats first base coach for the day…I think his only tip to the guys on first was “Run!”

The team is a perennial contender in the Pacific Coast League.

Here are the stats…
Year opened: 2000
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $42 million
Capacity: 11,093 (14,014 when including the lawn area)
Field dimensions: Left field – 330 ft.; Center field – 403 ft.; Right field – 325 ft.
Home teams: Sacramento River Cats (Pacific Coast League, AAA) 2000 –present
Events attended: one game

If you’ve ever been to the Angels’ Spring Training facility in Tempe, Arizona, this stadium is almost a carbon copy. Certain parts of the stadium, particularly the third base side, have a great view of downtown Sacramento and the Tower Bridge. It’s kind of like a minor league version of the view you’d have at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

The seating bowl only has one deck with another level of suites above that.  The home plate entrance comes into the concourse level at the top of the field deck. There is another entrance deep in right field for fans that walk over from Sacramento. From there, a long paved ramp takes you to the main seats, past the lawn area.

The wheelchair accessible seating is at the top of the field level with another spot available at very premium prices in the front row behind home plate. Ticket prices run from $8 to $60. For most seats, they tend to run $17 - $34, which is pretty high for a minor league team but also averages a slight discount for 2013. Buy tickets in advance and you save $2.

We had no problem just walking up to the ticket window and purchasing three tickets (one wheelchair, two companions) but had to settle for seats past first base into the right field area. We went to a mid-week day game that started at 11:35am and the wheelchair seating ended up close to being sold out.

Game views are excellent from any seat. Food choices are plentiful with Straw Hat pizza, Mexican food, tri tip, Subway sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, salmon tacos, popcorn, kettle corn, and much more. The food was amazingly good, if expensive. Tim and I shared a Dinger Dog, a giant ½ pound hot dog (good enough to land on our Best Foods of 2010 list), and Letty had a chef salad that was really delicious. We also had some popcorn that was a little too salty but the kettle corn was just right. The beer selection is very large with several carts selling microbrews on tap but at a cost of $11 for a large glass, it was again pretty expensive compared to other minor league stadiums.

Public transit will get you as far as Old Sacramento easily on the other side of the river. It’s an easy, wheelchair accessible walk from there over the bridge to the stadium but beware that it is a drawbridge and may be raised. It was when we walked over but it just lasts a few minutes.

There is plenty of parking in the area of the stadium; $10 for regular cars, $10 for close-in handicapped parking for those who have placards or disabled plates, and free on Wednesdays. The parking attendant also gave us several little bags of Jelly Bellies to take into the game.

A very good ballpark to watch a game in, the only downside is the high prices for tickets, parking, food, and drinks.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
UPDATED for 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Mazmanian Field - Walnut, California

Our first collegiate baseball stadium review here is a local stadium…for us…that is just a jewel sitting in the hills of Walnut, California.
Looking over from the snack bar, I can see the land that is proposed for an NFL stadium in the nearby City of Industry. Right now, that stadiums chance of being built are slim to none.

Here, on the campus of Mt. San Antonio College…the local community college for the area…voters a decade ago approved a $201 million dollar bond to improve the college infrastructure here.  A few million dollars was used to build the new baseball stadium along with the adjacent softball field.

The field features stunning views of the rolling hills that separate Mt. SAC from its next door neighbor, Cal Poly – Pomona. On clear days, the 10,000 ft. plus peak of Mt. Baldy looms above those hills.
Just about the entire stadium is accessible. A tunnel allows access to the field under the stands, a ramp leads to the wheelchair seating at the top of the bowl, and even the press box is fully wheelchair accessible.
Home to the Mt. SAC Mounties, several players have gone on to the majors from here including Brett Tomko and Shawn Wooten. This year, 2012, the University of La Verne is also calling it home while their new stadium is being built. You can catch Milwaukee Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke’s nephew, Bryce, playing right field for the Leos in those games. Admission is free.
Here are the stats:
Opened:  2006
Surface:  Grass
Construction cost:  $7.6 million
Capacity:  500
Field dimensions: Left center – 390; Center field – 400; right center – 390
Home team: Mt. Sac Mountaineers (Mounties)  2006 – present; University of La Verne Leopards, 2012 - 2013
Events attended:  1 game

Regular seating includes theater style seats behind homeplace and for companions in the wheelchair section plus back-supported bleacher seating down the first and third base lines.
It’s a beautiful, modern stadium featuring some great college baseball and a lot of amenities you don’t expect at this level.
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved