Road Ranger Stadium entertains fans and families as the Rockford RiverHawks bat, bunt, and steal bases in Frontier League play. Cheering from the intimate vantage point of home-plate box seats, fans can chew on hot dogs while admiring the home-run swing of 2004 Frontier League MVP Rich Austin and analyze the curveballs of former Kansas City Royal Mike Wood. Family fun and entertainment extends beyond the third out of every inning with promotional showcases, such as comedic sumo wrestling, the Eye-Ball race, and the long-lived tradition of the seventh-inning stretch-the-truth-about-how-many-hot-dogs-you-ate.
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 thwack of bats hitting balls squarely on their stitched faces echoes throughout The Hitting Zone, a 16,000-square-foot indoor baseball and softball training center. There, skilled trainers draw on their own experiences in the field to help batters achieve that satisfying sound during private and group lessons. Coach Rick DeHart shares what he learned while playing for the Montreal Expos and the Kansas City Royals, and Chris Wilmot’s lessons are shaped by his time as a first baseman for the Cougars. Other trainers share stories of college ball and coaching high-school students while they demonstrate pro pitching and hitting techniques in six turfed training tunnels.
Budding swingers can also apply their newly learned skills in five baseball and fast-pitch-softball cages equipped with ATEC automatic pitching machines that aspire to play for the Yankees one day. A 12-inch slow-pitch-arc softball cage also awaits batters, who can fuel their efforts with refreshments from nearby vending machines. In addition, The Hitting Zone also welcomes birthday celebrants inside a 24'x27' party room, where they can eat cake in between whacking balls and listing all of the Great Bambino’s nicknames in alphabetical order.
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.
The Madison Mallards take to the diamond each summer for three months of collegiate baseball, gathering players from across the country as they can hone their skills for a shot at the pros. The Mallards took home Northwoods League championships in 2004 and 2013, cheered on by some of the most devout and rowdy fans in the league. Fans that helped the team set a collegiate attendance record in 2012, drawing in more than 217,000 fans.