As the reigning Midwest Collegiate League champions, the CrackerJacks pour onto the diamond at Brennan Field set to defend their title while showcasing some of the country's top collegiate ballplayers. A year ago—during the inaugural season for both the team and the league—the CrackerJacks established themselves as a spring of talent, sending nine recruits to the league's first-ever all-star game. During 23 home games this season, including five Sunday matchups, fans can scout the club's refreshed roster of up-and-comers, who will remain with the 'Jacks until they head back to their university programs or until they grow too big to fit into Brennan Field's dugouts.
The Joliet Park District sprawls across more than 1,000 acres, engaging visitors with everything from sports to nature. Guests can wander through the foliaged paths of the Pilcher Park Nature Center and the organic community garden, or treat their senses to the floral colors and aromas that fill the bird-haven greenhouse. The 10,000-seat Joliet Memorial Stadium hosts high-school and college sporting events, while a dozen athletic fields fill with recreational players hitting baseballs, catching softballs, and spiking soccer balls when the referee isn't looking. During the summer, inner tubes transport patrons down Joliet Splash Station's high-speed water slides and 865-foot lazy river, and the glittery strands of Fourth of July fireworks color the skies above the stadium.
Champions Boxing Gym's team of tenacious instructors help clients hone strength, speed, and discipline through a range of boxing and martial arts classes. There are co-ed boxing classes, but some lessons are geared specifically toward women or children. Learn to fight MMA-style in their submission grappling class, or take a more advanced sparring class if you've got a little experience under your belt. Kenpo karate and kickboxing round out the class selection. The spacious gym is filled with speed bags, heavy bags, and bags that are programmed to say "ouch" when you hit them.
Opening weekend is a time for renewed hope, reordered batting lineups, and refreshing scents of glorious gunpowder in the sky. Catch the Flyers on May 28 for post-game fireworks after the hometown bats light up the Gary SouthShore RailCats, or pay homage to babies named Ruth as you run the bases with the kids on Family Day May 30. On May 31, remix Memorial Day grill-outs by downing two dogs off the bat, and score dollar dogs throughout game. Armed with a starter kit of ballpark eats and ballgame spheres, show the youngsters how to properly grip a fastball, a frank, and a cardboard sign that irrefutably proves fanmanship.
Simply put, Players Sport & Social Group helps more than 60,000 people each year get together, meet new friends, and have fun. The two-decade-old company has more than doubled in size in the last five years, due in no small part to the wide variety of sports leagues and clinics that it offers at venues throughout the city. Teams or individuals can sign up for sports ranging from dodge ball to beach volleyball to games of "bags," otherwise known as cornhole. Players can check their weekly standings online and review each sport's rules, learning exactly what is considered a foul in kickball or how to dispose of a football opponent's captured flag by burning it in a respectful ceremony.
The company also hosts and sponsors social events such as happy hours, fundraisers, and the Luau: a 55,900-participant grass-volleyball tournament with DJ music, food, and beer. Similarly, The Big Dig volleyball tournament offers the same mix of munchies, brews, and live entertainment, but on the sands of North Avenue Beach.
Kindled on October 8, 1997?the 126th anniversary of Chicago's infamous blaze?the Chicago Fire played their first Major League Soccer season in 1998 as one of the league's first expansion teams?and nabbed its first and only MLS Cup in that inaugural season. Under the supervision of U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bob Bradley, the club has been a hazard ever since, taking home four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophies and reaching the playoffs in nearly every year of its existence. Located in Bridgeview, Toyota Park hosts each home game, its grounds spacious enough to seat 20,000 and fertile enough for planting new soccer-net saplings each spring.