If you're a baseball fan, and in the San Bernardino area of California, you should take in an Inland Empire 66ers minor league baseball game. As connoisseurs of minor league baseball know, the game played at the lower levels is a different breed of animal than its major league brethren. The crowds are livelier, the action is closer and the quirky vibe of the minor league version of the sport just can't be captured in the huge coliseums that the big league clubs play in.
The single A 66ers, named after the famed California Route 66, began playing in Arrowhead Credit Union Park in 1996. Nicknamed "The Ranch", it seats 5,000 in the stands and has lawn seating to accommodate a few thousand more. As with other smallish minor league stadiums, there is not a bad seat in the place. The blue-bloods can sit in the state-of-the-art luxury skyboxes that the stadium offers, but even the peons lounging on the grass are right next to the action.
Throughout the season, the 66ers offer promotions that appeal to every nearly every demographic. If you're thirsty on a Thurday, they have dollar beer night. If you're broke by Friday, it's 50 cent night and throughout the year they present Bark in the Ballpark, where the management actually encourages you to bring your dog or cat to the game. But friends, the craziness doesn't end there. No minor league team is complete without a wacky mascot and the 66ers are no exception. Their's is a psychedelic, balloon-headed character named Bernie. Words cannot describe what he looks like. Think Mayor McCheese crossed with a Deadhead. Rumor has it, if you ask Bernie nicely, he will put your child's entire head into his mouth. He enjoys it.
Now sometimes the game in the minors can take a back seat to the mascots, bobbleheads and dollar beer nights, but that is not the case with the Inland Empire 66ers. They are one of the most competitive teams in their league. They have been playoff contenders most of the last 10 years, taking the California League crown three times. With their new affiliation with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011, the 66ers are poised for another great season. Don't miss it.