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Suburbia! An Adventure Guide

What’s the Best Minor League Ballpark?

Above, from left: Joliet Slammers; Chicago Dogs; and Windy City Thunderbolts
Photos: (Slammers) AHJ Photo; (Dogs) Daniel Boczarski; (Thunderbolts) Gary Middendorf/ Daily Southtown

Sure, Chicago is blessed with two major league franchises. But if you’re looking to catch some baseball on a budget — or just want to see the game up close — there are six minor league clubs within an hour of the city.

  Chicago Dogs (Rosemont) Gary Southshore Railcats Joliet Slammers Kane County Cougars (Geneva) Schaumburg Boomers Windy City Thunderbolts (Crestwood)
Cheapest Seats $9 (bleachers) $7 (terrace) $8 (lawn) $9 (lawn) $8 (lawn) $9 (upper-deck box)
Odds of Seeing a Future Big Leaguer Unlikely. But former Red Sox manager and infielder Butch Hobson is the GM. Moderate. Former Railcats include Tim Byrdak and Randall Simon, best known for assaulting a sausage mascot with a bat during the Milwaukee Brewers’ famous sixth-inning race. Marginal. Its one claim to fame is Billy Petrick, who made eight appearances with the Cubs in 2007. High. Josh Beckett, Miguel Cabrera, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber are all alumni, and it’s a farm team for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Nil. None of their former players are in the majors. Meh. Brewers hitting coach Andy Haines and former White Sox pitcher Dylan Axelrod are alumni.
Name Inspo Chicago — wait for it — hot dogs The South Shore Line, as well as Gary’s many freight rails Ask Jake and Elwood Blues: Joliet is perhaps best known for its old prison. Nothing. But alliteration! A type of prairie chicken, ostensibly fierce A fan vote after the team moved from Midlothian
Mascot Squeeze, a bottle of mustard, and the villain Ketchup, because, you know … Rusty, a giant cat J.L. Bird (get it?) Ozzie and Annie T. Cougar Coop the Boomer, a chicken who does a (G-rated) mating dance Another Boomer, though this one isn’t a chicken or any other recognizable creature
Pork-Centered Eats Pizza puff with pork sausage and pepperoni Pulled pork nachos Barbecue pork cheese fries Barbecue pork chop sandwich on brioche Mac and cheese topped with pulled pork in a waffle cone Bratwurst on a pretzel roll
Wacky Promo Wiener Wednesdays, when the team switches its moniker to another encased meat The world’s largest white elephant gift exchange, a.k.a. Marie Kondo’s nightmare Bark in the Park, when you can bring your pet Juggler Mad Chad tossing chainsaws and flaming tennis balls in the air A race with anthropomorphic aerosol cans Fans wearing giant inflatable balls running into each other for prizes
Can You Get There by Train? Yes (CTA Blue Line or Metra North Central Service) Yes (South Shore Line) Yes. (Metra Rock Island District and Heritage Corridor) No (Ike to I-88) Yes (Metra Milwaukee District West) No (Dan Ryan to I-57)

Winner: Chicago Dogs

An onsite Wiener’s Circle, fan-accessible batting cages, and the largest high-def scoreboard in independent baseball: They may be the new team in town, but you can’t beat their amenities.

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