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Inland Empire Minor League Baseball Season Preview

The Minor League Baseball season is just around the corner and recently I had the chance to catch up with Inland Empire teams such as the Inland Empire 66ers, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and Lake Elsinore Storm. In an attempt to educate our audience on the lives of professional baseball players, I called on the help of each team's coach or manager to discuss a broad range of topics. The coaches and managers you will hear from are Joe Hudson of the Inland Empire 66ers, John Shoemaker of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and Pete Zamora of the Lake Elsinore Storm. Inland Empire 66ers manager Joe Hudson is entering his 13th season with the 66ers and is primarily responsible for ensuring every fan receives an unforgettable experience at San Manuel Stadium.

Dean Anagnostopoulos (D.A.): For our audience who has never been, describe what they can experience coming to a 66ers game?

Joe Hudson (J.H.): Yeah, it's a family friendly environment where you're enjoying baseball, but just in a more intimate atmosphere than your going to get at a major league venue, there's no bad seats. The entertainment is more than just baseball. There's in between eating activities, kids fun zone, there's opportunities for autographs. I mean, it's just a smaller version of Major League Baseball with just a little bit more excitement from things going on other than baseball, I guess you'd say.

D.A.: Is there any more information you could share with our audience who's never been to a game before and anything you could tell us that we don't know about the team, maybe some fun facts?

J.H.: Yeah, anybody that's interested in the team and doesn't know a ton about it, I would say I recommend them getting online and go visiting 66ers.com and checking out our promotions schedule. Everything from fun giveaways, bobbleheads, jerseys, hats, firework nights and theme nights for kids, whether that's going to be marvel night or all the other different themed nights. I mean the promotions schedule is what we kind of hang our hat on and families are having a good time when they come out. That's our job. And we definitely strive to do a good job of that each and every day.

The 66ers kick off their season April 6 and will return for their first home game April 11 versus the Lake Elsinore Storm. In my next interview, you will hear from Lake Elsinore Storm head coach Pete Zamora. Zamora is fresh off of leading the team to a 2022 California League Championship.

D.A.: What is the Storm looking like for this year and where do you guys rank among other teams like the Quakes and 66ers?

Pete Zamora (P.Z.): Well, it's tough shoes to fill because the Storm last year won the Cali title. It's always very competitive. I've coached a couple years in it since 1980 and I was the pitching coach there in Lake Elsinore and every time we went in to the Inland Empire and the epicenter there in Cucamonga, we knew we were up for a pretty good fight. So it's a good competition between the Inland Empire and all those cities there. So it's fun competition. We don't know as of right now who's coming to Lake Elsinore and what players are on the roster. So they're all here and they're all performing.

D.A.: Being a Single-A coach, how much of your schedule, training and practices mirror the real life of MLB coaches and players?

P.Z.: We're out here and the major leaguers are practicing right next to us, so we intertwine here in spring training. The complex does a nice job of letting the minor leaguers see what the major leaguers are doing. Those guys are communicating. And you know, we're all big family there with the Padres. As it comes to the minor league life, hey we play every day just like the major leaguers do. I think the major leaguers play 162 games and I believe we play about a 130. So it's every day, Tuesday through Sunday and we have Monday's off throughout the season. So it's a grind for sure.

That was my interview with head coach for the Lake Elsinore Storm Pete Zamora. With his wealth of experience and knowledge, Zamora looks forward to leading the team when they kick things off April 7 at Storm Stadium in Lake Elsinore.

In my final interview, you will hear from Rancho Cucamonga Quakes Head Coach John Shoemaker. Shoemaker was drafted in the 35th round of the 1977 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers and would to go on to play in the minor league as a second baseman. In the interview, Shoemaker reminisces on his early days playing ball and the advice he has for the rare 10% who make it into the major leagues.

D.A.: What was your experience being drafted to the Dodgers in 1977 and what things did you have to do to get there and to where you are now?

John Shoemaker (J.S.): I was a college baseball and college basketball player at Miami University in Ohio, and was drafted by the Dodgers in 1977 after my junior season in college. Prior to that, I was drafted by the San Francisco Giants out of high school, but elected to go to college first. Tremendous choice on my part. I probably wouldn't have been able to last in baseball, and I signed out of high school. I wouldn't have been physically and perhaps mentally prepared and physically good enough to stick around in an organization. When you get to a team, it's trying to compete, wanting to do the best you can, trying to help your team win and learn how to be a good teammate. And fortunately for myself, after my playing career was going to be over, the Dodgers were adding new coaches to their minor league system. And they asked myself, if I would be interested and have been with it ever since. So, going in year number 47 with the Dodgers. Tremendous organization, very happy and proud to be with the Dodgers.

D.A.: What advice do you have for an aspiring Major League Baseball player who's put in that 10% category of ever making it to a team like the like the Dodgers or Angels?

J.S.: Well, number one, you have to realize that it is a difficult sport. Hitting a baseball is probably one of the hardest things to do successfully in any sport. In this day and age, if you're a pitcher, they're looking for people that can throw hard or have some type of extraordinary control or breaking pitches. You need to have a little bit of patience, but you also need to have urgency. Teams are not wanting to keep you around too long. And also to realize that once you enter an organization that next season, they're going to be more draft choices coming. So it's not like you know who your competition is. You're going to have competition coming every year.

That was my interview with head coach from the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes John Shoemaker. The Quakes will open the season against the Inland Empire 66ers Friday, April 7, in what will be the first of a back to back verses their crosstown rival.

Dean is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and majored in Broadcast Journalism. He is an avid sports fan and his favorite teams are the Milwaukee Bucks and Cincinnati Bengals. On his free time, Dean loves spending time with his four siblings and helping out at his family owned business called Donut Town Highland. Dean hopes to become a sports agent and represent some of his favorite athletes.