Putter's Family Fun Center strengthens familial bonds and encourages friendly competition with mini golf, an arcade room, and batting cages. The 18-hole mini golf course ($5/person) thwarts shots with tricky terrain and obstacles, including waterfalls, fiberglass giraffes, and ACT testing. Fully charged children expend energy on batting cages ($15 for 30 minutes) and giant trampolines ($3), and the extensive arcade and water-balloon arena serve as battlegrounds for settling inter-family disputes over whose father is the better astronaut. The center also hosts free WiFi and a snack bar, serving energy-packed foods to sustain childish fits of fun long into the night.
During the Gary SouthShore RailCats' inaugural season in 2002, the players spent an estimated 200 hours on buses?traveling approximately 12,000 miles without their own ballpark to call home. Indeed, the diamond at U.S. Steel Yard was still under construction, forcing the team to play its entire first season on the road. But while the trip could have been a rocky way for an organization to start out, it instead forecasted a wild ride ahead in which the RailCats never stopped moving. After just four years, the RailCats captured their first Northern League title, marking the first of five straight appearances in the championship series?a Northern League record.
Despite that first year away from home, the RailCats seem to have settled in well at U.S. Steel Yard. Within the park, views of the South Shore commuter train remind fans of the team's origins, and a 55-foot scoreboard towers over left-centerfield in much the same way early pitchers once towered over batters from atop a stack of milk crates.
Typically, it takes months to prepare for a marathon. Without proper endurance training, most marathon runners falter miles before the finish line. Hapilly, the Chicago Beerathon pays nothing but lip service to its -athon suffix, and there are really only a few things a prospective contestant needs to know. First, get a good night's rest beforehand. Second, don't bother pre-gaming, there's enough buzz to go around. Third, don't bother stretching or practicing a victory face—it's not really a competition. And finally, keep some cab fare on hand for afterwards, because at the Chicago Beerathon, every participant is a designated drinker.
Starting at noon and ending at 3 a.m., the Chicago Beerathon is springtime in October for fans of hops, barley, malt, and hiccups. Spiraling out from Wrigleyville to 26 of the city's most joyous venues, beer fans savor 6 ounce pours of craft brew at every stop. With music from live bands and DJs soundtracking the slurry quest, revelers end up with 26 beers in their gullets, leaving only 73 verses of "99 Beers on the Wall" to go.
Though they operate more than 200 locations in upwards of 30 states, the team behind U.S. Baseball Academy aims to make each young athlete's experience a personal one. Their four- or six-week camps are taught by local instructors who are current or former coaches at the high school or college level, and typically offer a 6:1 or better player-to-teacher ratio for intense, professional-style training. The Academy's proven itinerary of hitting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning drills was developed by an advisory board of college coaches and Major League players, including Cy Young Award?winner and ace pitcher Brandon Webb.
The South Bend Silver Hawks, a Class A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, swoop down on their foes with a flurry of fastballs and swinging bats. Instead of digging a tunnel directly to the pitcher’s mound, fans can catch one of seven home games from sturdy box seats that offer stately views of the infield. This year, first baseman Yazy Arbelo has led the slugging stats with 27 homers and 86 RBIs over 120 games. In 83 innings, southpaw David A. Holmberg has logged 81 strikeouts and cultivated a microscopic 2.39 ERA in a petri dish. Fans can also enjoy nonathletic festivities at the ballpark, including fireworks and a concert on August 26, Canines at the Cove on August 27, and an autograph session with the team’s stunt doubles. Meanwhile, a new downtown entrance greets visitors at Coveleski Stadium, where they can look for their likenesses on a recently installed jumbotron. As one of the only Minor League fields that features cleat-gripping turf, the Cove enables lightning-fast sprints and prevents the Hawks from floating away.
Founded as a nonprofit educational program, the World Baseball Academy used America's pastime to teach sportsmanship, leadership, and critical thought. Every exercise not only coveres what to do on the field, but how to do it.
In 2012, the Academy merged with another local nonprofit, gaining impressive facilities in which to pursue its multifaceted mission. Today, young athletes get the chance to hone skills and build character in a 26-acre athletic complex, working alongside 3,000 peers on the same quest.