Being a 6-foot-tall green dog called Thunder with a red nose and floppy ears is funny enough. But when Thunder, the Lake Elsinore Storm’s mascot, misbehaved throughout a presentation for Idyllwild School elementary students, despite the best efforts of his handlers to stick to the script — repeatedly scratching his ample posterior, brushing under his “arms” with his toothbrush before brushing his teeth and then picking his nose — the young students couldn’t get enough of Thunder and his zaniness.
Even though childlike in his exuberance and occasional behavioral lapses, Thunder demonstrated that he could also do pushups, jumping jacks and high kicks, underscoring the serious purpose of why he, Chelsey Kessler and Terrance Tucker from Storm management were at the Wednesday, Feb. 11, Idyllwild School assembly.
Storm representatives visit schools with grades K-5 touting a program called “Commit to Be Fit with Thunder.” The Storm’s presentation asks students to remember what is involved in being healthy:
• H: healthy and happy are best friends;
• E: eating right fuels your brain and body;
• A: activity and exercise are awesome;
• L: lots of sleep, lots of smiles;
• T: Thunder says to think positive;
• H: have fun getting fit; and
• Y: yes it’s true it’s up to you.
The team’s Reading for Rewards program asks the students to commit to reading 10 books appropriate to their grade level and provide the titles on the back of a bookmark provided to attending IS students. A supervising adult signs to verify the children have, in fact, completed their reading assignments, and teachers mail the completed bookmarks to Storm Baseball no later than March 31, 2015.
As their reward, students receive two free tickets to a Storm game, with a variety of available dates in the team’s home schedule.
The Lake Elsinore Storm are a single-A minor league team with a player development contract with the San Diego Padres. The Storm, who celebrated their 20-year anniversary in 2014, have spent the previous 14 years as a Padres affiliate posting a 1,026-931 (.524) record. They made the playoffs in nine of the last 10 years. They won the division title five times (2001, 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2011) and hoisted the championship trophy twice, in 2001 and 2011. The 2001 team was named Baseball America’s Minor League Team of the Year, with a 91-49 record.
The Lake Elsinore Storm play an April through early September schedule, with playoffs after the first week in September. Visit www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t103 for more information about the team.
Said IS Principal Matt Kraemer of the Storm’s visit, “It’s a good program. This is the seventh year they’ve been here.”
Judging by the enthusiastic reaction of the students in the gymnasium, the presentation may have resonated with its young audience, helping the students to understand the benefits of exercise, solid health habits and reading regularly as keys to happy and productive lives.