Submitted by: Chris Clark Photos by: Chris Clark and The Gary Railcats
It's a baseball round up in the Dunes!
The sun begins to set, the temperature begins to drop, you have your favorite drinks and snacks on hand, and your perfect summer evening begins.
Beach sunsets are pretty special, but summer baseball games have their own magical moments too. A baseball game can be a great family activity and there are several ballparks near the Dunes. The South Bend Cubs play at Four Winds Field in South Bend and are a high-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The Gary SouthShore Railcats play at the Steel Yard in Gary. The Lake County Corn Dogs play at Legacy Field in Crown Point. You can even catch a vintage 1858 style baseball game at Deep River Park in Merrillville if you want something different.
At Four Winds Field in South Bend, you can see the South Bend Cubs play throughout the summer months. The team is a high-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Players like Ian Happ, Christopher Morel, and even Kerry Wood, all played in South Bend before joining the big league team in Chicago.
There are several things that make a South Bend Cubs game a perfect family outing in the summer. Ticket prices start at around $14, but there are often reduced prices or package deals for different events throughout the season. If you bring a sharpie and something to sign (or pick up a free program when you enter and turn to the autograph page in the back) most players will happily sign autographs before or after the game for kids and families. Different days of the week offer different special events. On Tuesdays, you can bring your dog to the ballpark and get a special ticket offer that includes a hot dog and fountain drink for only $13. Just about every other Friday there is a fireworks show after the game. It’s a great chance to enjoy fireworks without a parking hassle. Sundays are FUNdays at the ballpark with special autograph sessions before the game, and a chance to play catch on the field.
No matter what day you go, there are a lot of opportunities for fun during the game itself. There is a kids fun zone full of inflatables for kids under 13. You have to purchase a wristband for $6, and you have to wear socks. It’s available for the entire game. There is also a playground and splash pad area that is free to enjoy during the game. There is no reason your kiddos have to sit down and watch baseball if they don’t want to! The Performance Center batting cages are open during games also. At just $5 for 30 balls your little leaguer can feel like a pro and get in some hitting practice.
Four Winds Field offers all of the typical ballpark food like hot dogs, popcorn, and ice cream in tiny plastic helmets. A hot dog is $5, so you can definitely find some cheap classics. Or you can spend a bit more for items like Philly Cheesesteak nachos in a helmet. Every ballpark food tastes better in a helmet! This year there will be a specialty food item offered at each homestand. The Guest Services booth will usually have info on what the item is, and where to buy it. Things like a bacon dog, mac and cheese bites, pork tenderloin sandwich, fried pickles and several more will be available depending on when you visit. You can even visit the Kona Ice truck and get your ice in a color changing cup with the South Bend Cubs logo on it. A visit to Four Winds Field is a great family trip, especially if you are already a Chicago Cubs fan. It is the most Major League experience you can get without driving into Chicago.
If you want to stay close to home, you can’t beat a visit to The Steel Yard to see the Gary SouthShore Railcats. The team belongs to the American Association of Professional Baseball, an independent professional baseball league.
A day at The Steel Yard is all about family fun. There are fun theme nights almost every week - pirate and princess night, Star Wars night, beach party, 90s night, dinosaur night, wizard night, along with regular weekly features like bark in the park when you can bring your dog, or fireworks nights, kids run the bases, and so many more. They even celebrate taco tuesday every week at the Steel Yard with $3 tacos and $5 margaritas. On Wednesdays you can enjoy $1 pierogies which is a new option for 2023.
Something unique that the Railcats offer is a sensory friendly ballgame once each summer. At this game they turn down the volume on everything. In a typical game every Railcats home run means a train horn blows - it’s quite loud, but at the sensory friendly game they skip that tradition as well just to make it easier on the ears. If you can’t make it to the sensory friendly game, there is a sensory room at the ballpark, available during any game. It has some couches and small chairs, simple toys, dimmed lighting, and of course, some quiet. The room is open for anyone needing a break during the game and is located on the first base side of the stadium.
The Railcats offer a kids club and members can get a free ticket for every Sunday game. Tickets for most games start at $14, or $10 if you want to sit in the grass. There are deals to be found all over NWI though. You can pick up free tickets to Thursday games at any Gordon Foods location. The NWI Times has an ad you can show to get a family four pack of tickets on Sundays for $25. Northshore Health Centers offer free tickets to Wednesday games. Local libraries also have tickets for various games throughout the summer. And on Mondays a $15 ticket gets you a seat and all you can eat hotdogs, popcorn, and peanuts. There are so many affordable ways to enjoy a game! On Fridays there are always fireworks after the game. A game at The Steel Yard is very fun, and so affordable, it’s a really enjoyable family memory maker.
For baseball on a smaller, more unique scale, you can visit the Deep River Grinders at Deep River Park in Merrillville. The team plays in the Vintage Base Ball Association against other teams from Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Games are on Sunday afternoons and are free to attend, you just need to bring a chair or blanket to sit on. And while you are there you can try an ice cold sarsaparilla, a fun vintage treat. You can find upcoming home games on the Lake County Parks Department website.
Newer to the area are the Lake County Corn Dogs, who play in the Northern League, a minor league baseball association. The team was started in 2022, and plays at Legacy Field in Crown Point. They play local minor league teams the NWI Oilers from Whiting, and the Griffith Generals, along with other Midwestern teams.
The Corn Dogs offer a kids club sponsored by Sonic that offers some fun Corn Dog swag for kids, as well as ticket discounts, and member contests. Tickets to games start at just $8, and offer general admission bleacher seating for fans. Legacy Field doesn’t offer the same type of perks and promotions that some of the bigger teams have but there is still a lot of between inning fun and the entertainment of a night at the ballpark. For a team that is just in its second season, and already has one championship to its name, the Corn Dogs are definitely worth watching.
So grab your mitts and your baseball caps for some family ballpark fun. Whether it’s a theme night complete with costumes, an afternoon game on a hot summer day, or that one time you bring your dog along, there is a local baseball experience that fits almost everyone. Enjoy a hot dog, a helmet full of nachos, amazing fireworks, and even some baseball this summer while you make new family memories.
Want to learn about more fun things like this? Be sure to sign up for the Dig the Dunes weekly e-newsletter, right here.