Happy Friday everyone! Time to take a look at the next ballpark in our summer ballpark tour: Pete Lehr Field, better known as The Diamond, home of the Lake Elsinore Storm!
The Lake Elsinore Storm originally formed as the Redwood Pioneers in 1980, and played their games in Rohnert Park north of San Francisco. During that time they were the Class-A affiliate of the Angels, then known as the California Angels. After the 1985 season the team relocated to Palm Springs while keeping its affiliation with the Angels, rebranding itself as the “Palm Springs Angels.” Though the big-league club was mediocre at best during the late-80s and early-90s, the farm system had a few notable names, including Dante Bichette (father of current-top prospect Bo Bichette) and Angels all-stars Garret Anderson and Troy Percival.
After a deal couldn’t be completed with the Palm Springs City Council over funding for a new stadium, the team moved to its current location in Lake Elsinore, and settled on its current name, the Lake Elsinore Storm. The team remained in the Angels organization until 2000, after which the Storm became the High-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, an affiliation they maintain today.
The most successful alumnus of the Storm is a familiar friend for Cleveland Indians fans. AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber pitched two seasons for the Storm in 2008-09, posting a 5.19 ERA with 199 strikeouts. In 2010, after Kluber was promoted to Double-A San Antonio, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of a three-team deal between Cleveland, San Diego, and St. Louis. Given that Kluber has won two Cy Youngs in an Indians jersey, and helped the team win the AL pennant in 2016, I think it’s safe to say the Tribe won that trade.
Earlier this offseason Scott Boras called the Padres farm system “a volcano of hot talent lava.” The top prospect in the volcano is shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who is plying his trade in Double-A San Antonio and could potentially make his MLB debut during September call-ups. While Tatis is the centerpiece of the Padres organization, they have talent at every level of their farm system.
Currently the top-ranked prospect on the Storm, according to MLB Pipeline, is southpaw Adrian Morejon (above). Morejon defected from Cuba, signing with the Padres for $11-million upon declaring for free agency in 2016. He doesn’t have immense power–his fastball sits in the low 90s, and can top out at 96–and his best offspeed pitch is a changeup. He’ll work to add a curveball to his arsenal as he works his way through the minor leagues. What scouts love about Morejon is his control. He has a consistent release action and solid control with his fastball that make up for his lack of overwhelming power. Morejon has pitched well in his two starts so far for the Storm, allowing 3 runs across 8 1/3 innings while striking out 10.
Two of the other top prospects for the Padres are currently on the DL at Single-A Fort Wayne, but might get promoted to Lake Elsinore by the time Brett and I begin our ballpark tour. Padres’ number 2 prospect Mackenzie Gore (above) was the Gatorade Player of the Year in high school baseball in 2017, and was drafted with the third pick of the 2017 draft. The lefty has an impressive arsenal including a plus-curveball, changeup, and a breaking slider that sits in the low-80s — and how about that leg kick? The Padres’ number 5 prospect is another Cuban signed in 2016, Michel Baez. At 6-foot-8, 220 pounds, Baez has the physical attributes to be a powerful presence on the mound. His fastball tops out in the upper-90s, and he pairs that pitch with a power slider in the high-80s.
Here’s hoping we’ll be able to see one of these pitchers work their stuff when we visit Lake Elsinore in June!
Pete Lehr Field, known also as Storm Stadium or simply The Diamond, is an 7,000-capacity stadium opened in April of 1994. The ballpark was named after local businessman Pete Lehr, who donated the land for the new stadium.
During the summer the Diamond is home for the Lake Elsinore Storm, but the field has also hosted auto races, concerts, and high school graduations.
The outfield isn’t particularly spacious; it’s just 310 feet to right field, and 330 to left, though the rightfielder is protected by a large wall down the first base line. Also, I’m getting the feeling that every ballpark in California has a beautiful, mountain vista beyond the outfield fence.
Like a lot of minor league parks, seating at the Diamond is largely confined to behind home plate and down the first- and third-base lines. Brett and I have seats in the field boxes down the third base line.
Our seats are conveniently close to the Diamond Club, one of the highlights of Pete Lehr Field. The Diamond Club is a full restaurant and bar within the stadium, with a large glass window overlooking left field. Best of all, it’s open to the public during game days. We’ll let you know our thoughts on the menu after we visit!
When there’s a Storm, there’s Thunder: Meet the mascot of the Lake Elsinore Storm, a “larger-than-life bright-green fur-covered pooch.”
We’ll be at Lake Elsinore for their Sunday afternoon matchup against the Inland Empire 66ers on June 3 — just a bit over a month away! Next week, Brett will take a look at the first major league park on our tour: Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. Stay tuned!