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.