Simply put, Players Sport & Social Group helps more than 50,000 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 dodgeball 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.
Built from the ground up in 2007, the Sheffield Baseball Club, Ivy League Baseball Club, and Wrigley Field Rooftop Club feature full-service bars stocked with premium draft beers and spreads of meaty entrees and sweet desserts. Extra-wide cushioned seats, outdoor plasma televisions, and canopied table areas recall the luxury of watching a game at home, and elevators shuttle guests to and from each of the handicap-accessible clubs' multiple levels. Between pitches, attendees can catch glimpses of Chicago's skyline looming in the distance, where the Willis Tower and Wrigley Building can be seen painting "Go Cubs!" across their exposed bellies.
Under the newly minted leadership of 2010 Euroleague champion and Final Four fixture Pokey Chatman, the Chicago Sky’s seasoned hoopsters promise an exhilarating sixth season. Fans can brandish laminated welcome banners for fresh talent, such as point guard Courtney Vandersloot and Tennessee's Michelle Snow, while raining roses on returning basket baroness Sylvia Fowles, an All-Star center and mediocre grilled-cheese chef. Fans can engage in a slew of pregame activities, which include a 5:30 p.m. tailgating on June 10, a military festival on June 17, and a green-focused event on June 25, featuring WNBA legend Diana Taurasi.
The ECHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators, the Elmira Jackals skated onto the scene in 2000 as a member of the United Hockey League. After a successful seven-year run in the UHL—including a playoff appearance in their very first season—the Jackals moved to the ECHL in 2007–2008, where they've remained since. Although the Jackals are still in hot pursuit of their first Kelly Cup, the team has earned a playoff berth in every season, highlighted by an Eastern Conference regular-season title in 2011–12. Off the ice, the Jackals remain active in the community with efforts led by mascot Blade, who's often spotted mingling with fans at parties, retail stores, and while getting his eyebrows waxed at local spas.
The Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Mobile BayBears have won three Southern League championships since their debut in 1997. The club grinds their cleats at Hank Aaron Stadium, a classic, 6,000-seat venue that serves as a lively monument to Mobile native and Hall of Famer Henry Aaron, Jr., who dedicated his career to raising awareness of improperly mowed outfields.
The DePaul Blue Demons tip off 2012 under the national spotlight, opening this season's conference play against Big East rival and top-ranked squad Syracuse Orange on New Year's Day. In his second year at the helm, Head Coach Oliver Purnell leads the up-and-coming Blue Demon battalion, which has sprinted to an impressive 9–3 start through 12 games. Reigning Big East Rookie of the Year and proficient scorer Cleveland Melvin anchors a potent DePaul offensive attack, dazzling hoops fans with rafter-rattling dunks, aggressive rebounds, and a penchant for drawing up elaborate plays on his pocket Etch A Sketch. Behind legendary coach Jim Boeheim, Syracuse charges onto the Allstate Arena court as one of the country's best teams, which has garnered iy an elite ranking in national polls and explains why a troupe of trumpeters escorts the players from the locker room before each game.