Summer Fun: Minor League Baseball, Major League Fun

If you think you have to battle Chicago traffic, spend $30 on parking, and drain your wallet on tickets and concessions just to treat your family to a baseball game this summer – think again.

Sure, we’re lucky to have two Major League baseball teams in our backyard, but if you’re looking for a lower key, less expensive way to enjoy America’s favorite pastime, then consider attending a minor league game.

Within about an hour, you can drive from the North Shore to Elfstrom Stadium, home of the Kane County Cougars, a minor league team affiliated with the Oakland Athletics. Most tickets cost less than $15, as opposed to the $50 you could easily drop for a spot in the Cubs’ bleachers. Cougars’ spokesman Jeff Ney says a day at Elfstrom offers the full ballpark experience, with small-town touches you won’t get at Wrigley or the Cell.

Smaller crowds mean fans can meet players, who are happy to sign autographs. Kids can run the bases after games, and there are fireworks on weekends.

“For us, more than anything, it is all about being family and fan friendly,” Ney says.

But, make no mistake, you’ll see top-tier athletic talent at minor league games. Midwest League President George Spelius says the minor leagues are where baseball stars are born.

About 110 major leaguers began as Cougars players, including Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett and former White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik.

Interested? Here’s where to go see some baseball:

Kane County Cougars (Midwest League – the official Minor League)
Elfstrom Stadium
Geneva, IL

Windy City Thunderbolts (Frontier League)
Standard Bank Stadium
Crestwood, IL

Normal CornBelters (Frontier League)
The Corn Crib
Normal, IL

Gary Southshore RailCats (Northern League)
U.S. Steel Yard
Gary, IN

Schaumburg Flyers (Northern League)
Alexian Field
Schaumburg, IL

Joliet Jackhammers (Northern League)
Silver Cross Field
Joliet, IL

Lake County Fielders (Northern League)
Fielders’ Stadium
Gurnee, IL

Rockford RoverHawks (Northern League)
Road Ranger Stadium
Loves Park, IL