To wrap up the Minor League portion of our ballpark tour, we headed back inland to visit San Manuel Stadium and the Inland Empire 66ers, who played this special-edition game as the Inland Empire Cucuys!
We couldn’t visit California without seeing the beach, right? We spent the early part of the afternoon at Santa Monica Pier, then sat for a few hours on the sandy beaches of the Pacific. Unfortunately, California doesn’t allow you to bring beer onto the beach. Lame.
It was a seesaw affair in this one between the Cucuys and the visiting Storm. Inland Empire got the party started early with back-to-back doubles to lead off the bottom of the first from Jahmai Jones and Jo Adell. The Cucuys took a 3-1 lead into the fourth inning, when the Storm plated four runs against Cucuys starter Erik Manoah. Lake Elsinore’s starter Pedro Avila managed to keep Inland Empire in check for a few more innings, but the home team rallied for three runs in the sixth, punctuated by Jordan Zimmerman’s 2 RBI double. The offense had surged to a 6-5 lead, and Cucuys’ reliever Eduardo Rivera came in to record a two-inning save, recording four strikeouts along the way.
FINAL: Inland Empire 5 — 8 — 0, Lake Elsinore 6 — 8 — 1. WP: Ryan, LP: Avila, SV: Rivera.
The area surrounding San Manuel Stadium isn’t great; it feels run-down and suburban, neglected even. The ballpark itself, though, is a well-maintained, if simple facility. I appreciate the option of lawn seating–and for five bucks the view is well worth it!
I also, for the first time this ballpark tour, managed to find #StrangeBallparkFood! San Manuel Stadium offers a chili cheese dog topped with nachos. It’s basically impossible to eat, but if you’re in the mood for a hot dog AND nachos, why not just combine them?
The seating arrangements at San Manuel Stadium felt refreshingly original; the previous minor league parks we had visited on the tour all seemed the same. Inland Empire offered more lawn seating and standing-room options for a more varied ballpark experience.
It was also exciting to see the vibrancy of the ballpark. For a Thursday night game, the stadium was packed, and the vast majority of the fans stayed through the final pitch in the ninth. The energy created a fun atmosphere around the park.
I enjoyed San Manuel Stadium quite a bit. Sure, it’s location in suburban San Bernardino leaves quite a bit to be desired, and since it’s a Single-A park it doesn’t have an immense variety of places to explore. But it offers a good food, a decent view, excellent beer, and a great energetic environment. Hard to complain when a ballpark of this size offers that much.
It’s and interesting little park. One of the the things that stood out to me is how supportive this community is of this baseball team. While there are some great fanbases for Minor League teams, you rarely see one of those great fanbases at the Single A level. When you combine that with the simplistic style of the park, it makes for a pleasant atmosphere to watch a game. I think it was a good pallet cleaner for me after a week of ballparks trying to overdo things to impress.
In terms of food, the options were great. They had things for the casual baseball fan who wanted the classics to some adventurous food options for the curious baseball fan (just ask Scott). In terms of beer, there is enough selection to keep us beer men happy while finally offering a decent price as compared to the other parks we visited.
In terms of the seating, there isn’t a bad place in the park. I love how the grass seating options go up and down the lines and around the left field foul pole. We ended up finding a spot on the drink rail in the craft beer section, and it was a great spot. My only complaint is that you have foot traffic that’ll walk in front of the drink rail, which obstructs your view.
Overall, this ballpark ranks high on my list for Single A parks. It’s simple, yet charming and the fans really add character to it. It’s a perfect way to get back to basics with a park instead of being sucked into all the distractions that other parks have.