- Lake Elsinore Storm
This is likely the one team and park that most fans are familiar with, given its closeness to the big league club. The Storm are a Class-A Advanced team in the California League.
They were the Angels’ affiliate until the end of the 2000 season. The Storm play at “The Diamond,” which can hold over 8,000 baseball fans. There is not a bad seat in the ballpark, and there are 11 luxury suites as well. The Storm have two mascots: Thunder and Jackpot. There is a grass field down the right field line that all kids and fans can play at.
It may very well be worth making the trek up to Lake Elsinore instead of going to a game at Petco Park this year, especially if you are looking for an affordable and kid-friendly option. If a family is looking for a good place to have a fun few hours without breaking the bank, they cannot go wrong with The Diamond at Lake Elsinore.
There are tributes to two former Padre greats (Jerry Coleman, and Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn) on display on the outfield walls. Those are evident alongside retired numbers of Joe Urso (7) and Jake Peavy (22).
Fun fact: On May 18, 2007, the Storm set the record for the most lopsided victory in the Cal League, beating the Lancaster JetHawks 30-0. In that game, Matt Antonelli went 6-8 with two doubles, three RBI, and scored five runs. Kyle Blanks went 6-7 with two doubles, a home run, and scored six runs. The Storm’s first five hitters (Antonelli, Cooper, David Freese (yeah, WS MVP), Blanks, and Chad Huffman) went 22-for-32 with five homers, six doubles, 19 RBI and 24 runs scored. The first two pitchers for Lancaster: Kris Johnson gave up eight runs — seven earned — on five hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings. Mario Pena gave up for 11 runs on eight hits and three walks in 1 2/3 frames.
That’s not all, though. In the same series, Lake Elsinore won a game 21-6. They ended up scoring 63 runs in the three-game series, winning two out of the three games (they lost the other game of the series, only scoring 12 runs in a 14-12 defeat). It was a great series win for the Storm that included some big leaguers (only one of which did much with the Padres).
The Storm had the potential for an absolutely lethal rotation in 2017, but Tommy John surgery to Anderson Espinoza took a little bit of the oomph out of the rotation. Still, though, Lake Elsinore had a solid 2017 (even if their record did not reflect it). They had five Cal League all-stars, including Joey Lucchesi, Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Josh Naylor.
In 2018, Lake Elsinore should be loaded with talent. Pedro Avila, Adrian Morejon, Ronald Bolanos, and Reggie Lawson will be names to watch in the rotation. Hansel Rodriguez and Dauris Valdez will help anchor the Storm’s bullpen.
Third baseman Hudson Potts, who hit 20 home runs last season for Fort Wayne as a teenager, is a position player to watch. Rule V’er Luis Torrens and Marcus Greene Jr. are expected to share catching duties.
The outfield is filled with raw talent. Edward Olivares (who came to the organization in the Yangervis Solarte trade), Jorge Ona, and Buddy Reed will all see time in the outfield. Super-utility man Nate Easley, who had an on-base percentage of .374 from June-on last season with Fort Wayne, is expected to bounce around the field.
- San Antonio Missions
The San Antonio Missions are the AA affiliate of the Padres, and they play in the Texas League. The Missions play at Nelson W. Wolff municipal stadium, which can hold over 9,000 spectators.
The stadium is very old, but it has been renovated and balances modern and old-school styles.
There is an outer concourse with concessions stands, the team store, and banners saluting former Missions players who have gone on to Cooperstown.
The team does have contests involving the fans between innings. The longest tradition is a race around the base path between Henry the Puffy Taco and a small child picked out of the stands. There is a rule that the fan can tackle Puffy before he reaches home plate, and because of that, the last time that the taco won a race was in the 1990’s.
The team’s official mascot is “Ballapeño,” which is a baseball jalapeno. Yeah, you can’t get more “minor league” than that. Here, spend 90 seconds of your life watching a Taco and Ballapeno have a dance off.
San Antonio has been the home for Texas League Baseball since 1888. They have been an affiliate with the Cubs, Brewers, Indians, Rangers, St. Louis Browns, Dodgers, Mariners, and now the Padres. Obviously, there is a lot of history there. More than 700 Missions players have made the big leagues, including:
- Pedro Martínez
- Adrián Beltré
- Félix Hernández
- Adam Jones
As part of MiLB’s “Copa de la Diversion,” the Missions will become the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio for nine games during the 2018 season. The club will debut the name change on May 5, and then turn into the Flying Chanclas on each succeeding Thursday home game.
San Antonio should be fun to watch this year. The top prospect in the system, Fernando Tatis Jr., began his season there. Josh Naylor will be one of the players joining him in the infield, as will Ty France. Austin Allen, fresh off a very productive season in Lake Elsinore, will start at catcher. The outfield, which features Rod Boykin and Michael Gettys, will be very toolsy.
The Missions should have a solid rotation as well. Cal Quantrill posted a 4.04 ERA in eight AA starts last year. With a healthy season under his belt, he should be a candidate to improve. Logan Allen and Miguel Diaz will join him in the rotation.
Reliever Robert Stock, who impressed in Padres camp with an upper-90s fastball, will begin his season in San Antonio as well.
- El Paso Chihuahuas
Finally, we get to AAA. The final stop before the big leagues. The Chihuahuas are part of the PCL (Pacific Coast League) and moved to El Paso in 2014. They moved from Tucson, Arizona.
On July 30, 2012, the PCL gave preliminary approval to MountainStar Sports Group to buy the Padres, who wanted to relocate the franchise to El Paso starting in 2014. The deal was approved on September 17 of 2012 and was finalized on September 18 with a stadium deal finally in place.
The El Paso Chihuahuas vs the Fresno Grizzlies on opening day in El Paso on Monday, April 28, 2014 in El Paso. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/El Paso Chihuahuas
In order to get the name “Chihuahuas,” a name-the-team contest was held for the fans. The five finalists? The Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Chihuahuas, Desert Gators and Sun Dogs. Over 5,000 submissions were entered before management decided the Chihuahuas were the right name. El Paso general manager Brad Taylor said Chihuahuas was chosen because they “represent fun and are fiercely loyal.” So, there’s that I guess.
El Paso plays in Southwest University Park, which was the winner of the 15th annual baseballparks.com award. The park holds between 9,500 and 10,000 fans in total.
The sound system is impressive and the 90×30 scoreboard is sure to garner attention. There’s even Wi-Fi in the ballpark. Along with a play area for kids, there is also a wiffle ball field and a splash pad feature.
The park, much like Petco has done to downtown San Diego, has brought newfound energy to downtown El Paso. People love their Chihuahuas. They sell out a lot of games and many people are seen walking in downtown El Paso before and after games, something that was never seen before the Chihuahuas played there.
People really do seem to love the place and are genuinely excited to attend games. The stadium and team alone have already boosted El Paso’s economy and infrastructure. The exterior and all-around experience is beautiful. Much like Fort Wayne, this ballpark should be on the top of any minor league ballpark list.
El Paso’s mascot is “Chico” the Chihuahua. It is very popular among the fans.
The Chihuahuas were kind of barren on true “prospects” in 2017, but that did not stop them from reaching the PCL Championship Series.
This season should showcase truer “prospects” as the next wave of talent rolls through the system. Talented infielder Luis Urias has started in El Paso. OF Franchy Cordero, LHP Eric Lauer, reliever Trey Wingenter, SS Javy Guerra, and RF Franmil Reyes join him there.