COMMENTARY: Manny's presence has added benefit this weekend

Manny Ramirez and his circus will roll through the Inland Empire this weekend.

Manny Mania will be highlighted by dreadlocks, No.99s, beefed up security, additional concessions stands, sold-out minor-league stadiums and a crush of media.

Ramirez's march back to the majors is not a quiet one.

The Diamond, home of the Lake Elsinore Storm, will be Manny's house today. It is supposed to be Jacob's House.

Today was an ordinary day dedicated to an extraordinary cause.

Before Ramirez was scheduled to star for the Dodgers' Class A affiliate Inland Empire 66ers at Lake Elsinore, Jacob's House was the game's featured promotion.

And there's a contortionist scheduled, too.

There would've been no need to hire double the security or hire a private security firm, as one of the minor-league clubs did, if Manny wasn't here.

Ramirez is here because of a 50-game suspension for using drugs and he'll be the star of the show.

The Storm has sold out all 6,000 seats but still had 1,000 of the 2,000 grass seats remaining as of Friday afternoon. If all 8,000 seats - averaging in price from $6-$10 - are sold, that almost would double Lake Elsinore's average Saturday night attendance of 4,478.

It's a wonderful thing for Jacob's House, which will receive a percentage of the proceeds from today's game. Jacob's House is a nonprofit organization in Temecula which serves as a home away from home for families going through tragedies.

A section of the stadium will be home to children and parents wearing "Jacob's House" T-shirts. They'll have to share their stage.

Jacob's House officials aren't groaning at the prospect of playing second fiddle to Manny. They believe their organization will benefit from the exposure of a packed house.

Vikita Poindexter, vice president of community affairs for Jacob's House, sent another e-mail campaign to folks about today's game when she learned Ramirez was scheduled to play at Lake Elsinore.

"We used Manny for encouragement for people to come out," Poindexter said. "The ones who were on the fence, when they heard Manny would be here, maybe they would jump on board. They're going to give us a percentage of the ticket sales and there's a silent auction that night. That's huge for us. Manny is an added blessing."

Temecula city manager Shawn Nelson will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

His son, Jacob, was 24 years old when he died in a car accident 2<MD+,%30,%55,%70>1/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>2 years ago. Jacob's House is named in his honor, and it provided a safe haven for Shawn, his wife Stephanie and their family.

It's been said a parent losing a child is the worst kind of pain, and unfortunately, Nelson knows. He's still dealing with it, but working on building Jacob's House a permanent home has helped ease the pain.

He's done the math on what donations from a capacity crowd of 8,000 would mean for Jacob's House.

"If just 4,000 people gave $20 a month, in five years we'd have $4.8 million," Nelson said.

Enough money for a real home for Jacob's House.

Lake Elsinore general manager Chris Jones said Jacob's House has been really helpful to the Storm, with a 5K race and other events. Jones was glad to give back to the organization and tonight is a thank you of sorts. Manny is giving back, too, without even knowing it.

Nelson will have informational booths around the stadium. He'll talk about Jacob's House between innings twice during the game.

Nelson is a Dodgers fan and has been amazed by what Ramirez has done in his career. His son, who played all sports, was a big Dodgers fan, too.

He believes Jacob will be at today's game in spirit.

"My son is with me everywhere I go," Nelson said. "He loved the Dodgers. There's going to be an angel in the outfield (tonight). I know he'll be blown away by the evening. The fact that it's called, `The Heart of Jacob Family Fun Night' would blow him away beyond belief. He will be there."

And Manny is expected to be there, too.

Shawn Nelson will share the same field with Ramirez when he goes to the mound before the first pitch. He hasn't warmed up and doesn't care if the ball makes it over home plate. He said he's just going to be a proud father.

And if he had a moment to chat with Ramirez?

"I would say that all things happen in life, whether they're good or bad for a reason," Nelson said. "I believe there's a reason he'll be at Lake Elsinore (tonight). It's not just a part of his rehab. It's an opportunity for him to bring people in to learn something meaningful and significant. I would ask him if he could sign a couple of jerseys or balls or caps or whatever could be auctioned off. Because of his influence, he has an opportunity to help other people.

"At the end of the day when all the dust has settled, I believe that's what it's all about, touching other people's lives."

The Diamond will be Manny's house today. Let's not forget it's Jacob's House, too.