Baseball season is around the corner and it’s time to think about buying tickets. After all, if you want to make it to Opening Day, you need to be prepared and on the ball, as well as ready to shell out about $100 for cheap seats, according to Stubhub. But is this your best use of resources? This season, I made the decision to pass up traditional Padres Opening Day tickets and instead using that money for Lake Elsinore Storm tickets. I’ll go to plenty of Padres games, but I just can’t justify $100 to see this team. And especially not when I saw how far that money will go in Lake Elsinore where, as we’ve noted on the podcast many times, there is more quantity of talent and arguably more quality of talent.
The Baseball Product
The product on the field at Lake Elsinore is top notch. The best of the Padres influx of young talent will either start at Lake Elsinore this season, or pass through Lake Elsinore after being promoted from Fort Wayne. We are talking Quantrill, Lauer, Espinosa, Nix, Allen here with the possibility of Naylor, Morejon and others. As far as the Padres farm system goes, this is where it’s at in 2017.
The Storm’s stadium is top notch in the California League, and that was before they made major upgrades this offseason. All seats still are priced between $10 and $18, but there are now six sections. The best seats are Home Plate Premium, which are the first 12 rows behind home plate. These outstanding seats are only $18. They also added high top tables that are behind home plate. You will feel shocked at how great a seat you’ll be in for under $20. As far as food and beer, it’s not Petco. That’s bad. But it’s not priced like Petco Park. THAT’S GOOD! Beerwise, you’re looking at macrobrews and some Hangar 24 Orange Wheat. It’s unfortunate that in their macrobrew selection, they don’t offer Natural Light because I generally like to avoid additives in my beer. I like it natural. Food is also fine, but nothing will blow your mind. There’s some barbeque along the first base line, there’s standard ballpark fare, and there’s Baskin Robbins ice cream. There’s also the Diamond Club, a sit down restaurant and bar along the left field line. The Diamond Club has general bar food fare, but also has TVs, so it’s the only place to keep updated on how the Padres are doing. It’s also air conditioned, which can be key for the summer Sunday day games when all you want is to cool down from the godforesaken heat. It’s minor league baseball, so you can expect zany hijinks and contests between innings. If we’re being honest, I prefer these kinds of ballpark entertainment more than a computer generated “race” animation on the video screen, but that’s just me, the dick joke blogger, so take it for what it’s worth. As a dad though, my kid is certainly more engaged with the Storm between innings bits than the Padres’, but we can touch on this more in the next section.
Attending With Kids
I’ve got a three year old daughter. She’s been to probably 30 Padres games, and she likes it. But she REALLY likes the Storm games. Sitting right behind the umpire makes the game itself a lot more engaging for her, especially because she’s a big fan of making fart sounds at him. But beyond that, there’s a full fledged playground, a bounce house, and since the stadium is smaller, she gets to run into the Storm mascot a lot more often. Here’s an underappreciated aspect: it’s just the right distance away. Let me explain. Lake Elsinore is roughly 60-75 minutes from my house in Encinitas. If you live in San Diego or East County, it’s maybe 75-90 minutes. Sunday day games are at 1 PM, which is perfect when it comes to nap schedule. I get in the car around 11:30, my kid falls asleep right around when I get on I-15, and I sit in the parking lot at Lake Elsinore until 1 PM. It’s perfect. And the distance is just the right distance to get enough of a nap to make it through the game. As an added bonus, a nap on the way home is a distinct possiblity as well. This is responsible parenting at its finest.
This season, I’m going all in on Lake Elsinore Storm games. I want to see the stars of the future with my own eyes, and when I say stars of the future, I’m not talking about Paul Clemens. I had a dialogue with Storm ticket sales, who were remarkably helpful, especially compared the Padres subpar sales staff. You can of course buy single game tickets, but if you’re going to become a real devotee like me, you need to think at least mini plan, which is 7 games. They offer some mini plans with themes like just Saturdays or Fireworks Fridays only. But they also offer custom mini plans where you just pick 7 games. This is key because the Storm also offer full flexible trading, with one caveat. You can trade your ticket after you don’t use a ticket. So I figured out a scheme to get full flexibility and verified with the team that it would work. Just buy a custom plan, pick the first seven games of the season (assuming you’re not going to those seven), then trade in those tickets on an as needed basis during the season. In general, they seem very flexible and customer focused, so pretty much the exact opposite of the Padres season ticket program. Here’s the details:
Looking at the pricing, I can either choose to sit in the Toyota Terrace for Opening Day, or take a premium home plate mini plan for myself. It was an easy decision.
The next three years are going to be all about the minor leagues for Padres fans, and it’s a good idea to get onboard early. You’ll get more invested in these players’ careers and progression than you ever would reading Bill Center’s Friarwire scouting the daily box scores and providing you with minimal insight. Storm games are also a REALLY fun time, doubly so with a family. With San Diego’s close proximity to Lake Elsinore, and with some of the more notable prospects hitting high-A this season, 2017 is the year to take full advantage.