December 03, 2021
Sports & Recreation

Sports & Recreation

More than peanuts and Cracker Jack

Local ballparks fill season with cool contests, fun theme nights

When you take your family out to the ballgame this summer, it’s more than just baseball, peanuts and crackerjack, but also live music, giveaways, costumes and perhaps even a chance to meet Mr. Belding from “Saved by the Bell.”

Check out this array of special promotions and theme nights at our local semi-pro and minor league ballparks, sure to be home runs
this summer.

Joliet Slammers
(815) 722-2287
The Joliet Slammers will bring back several popular promotions, including $2 Tuesdays, Thirsty Thursdays, Firework Fridays (as well as three Saturday fireworks shows) and Family Sundays.

Have you ever wondered if Darth Vader looked like Babe Ruth or Mario Mendoza in the batter’s box? You can find out during Star Wars Night on June 16 as Vader and the Storm Troopers square off against the Rebel Alliance in a softball dual before the regularly scheduled Slammers game.

“It’s been a fan favorite promotion so we’re bringing it back this year with an added element,” says Porscha Johnson, manager of corporate sales for Joliet. “The new element is the pre-game softball so fans can come early for that and then stay late after the regular game for fireworks. We’ll have Star Wars characters and sell light sabers and things like that.”

Another pre-game charity softball game will have the Joliet Police and Fire Departments squaring off during Superhero Night on July 27. In addition to fictional superheroes who will be walking around the ballpark, the night will honor real life heroes, including the aforementioned police and firefighters as well as EMS and military. The night will culminate with a fireworks show.

“Superhero Night is something we’ve also done in the past and the pre-game guns and hoses softball game should be a lot of fun,” Johnson says. “We’re also bringing back a Harry Potter Night and our Princess Nights are always pretty big.”

Grease is celebrating its 40th anniversary so Joliet will host a 50s era theme night on June 30.

Late summer highlights at Joliet include the annual Boy Scout Sleepover on Aug. 18, Halloween Night on Aug. 31 and Military Night on Sept. 1.

Clinton LumberKings
(563) 242-0727
Clinton LumberKings manager Denny Hocking should definitely remember the'80s but none of his players can.

The era of stone washed jeans, neon shirts, mullets and other big hair - and going to the video store if you wanted to watch a movie at home and then having to “Be Kind, Rewind” it upon returning - may seem like a lifetime ago for many.

The LumberKings will take you back to that era when people watched

MTV for music videos and you asked “Where’s the Beef?” when you ordered a burger with its first ’80s night since 1989.

1stGateway Credit Union ’80’s Night on June 2 will feature a variety of music and games from one of the most memorable decades and a time when smartphones didn’t exist. That’s part of the reasons why the first 250 fans through the gates will receive a phone book. Remember those? After the game the music memories will continue when AC/DC cover band “Rolling Thunder” shakes you all night long.

“It’s funny because none of our guys (players) were born in the ’80s but the music you hear in the clubhouse is prominently from then, so it has that staying power,” says Erik Oas, director of broadcasting and media relations for Clinton.

“With our new ribbon board at the stadium we’ll be able to make it more of a theme night with games and contests and we thought we could get in the spirit by giving out phone books so some people might be confused and think ‘What are they handing me?’ It’s a popular decade so it should be a lot of fun.”

Oas realized that this year is the 25th birthday of mascot Louie the LumberKing so they will be celebrate on June 22.

“I’m not sure what Louie has planned, but I’m sure it’s going to be pretty cool,” Oas says. “The guy who plays Louie is great so we’re looking forward to that.”

The LumberKings have three scheduled bobblehead giveaways, recognizing former Clinton players who have made it to “The Show,” including Ketel Marte, James Paxton and Kyle Seager.

Seager’s bobblehead is a Star Wars-themed one and will be part of a Star Wars Night that also includes character appearances, games, music and more.

They will have 18 giveaway days in total and the stay late Saturday concert series also returns and runs from June 2 through Aug. 25.

Kane County Cougars
(630) 232-8811
There's also Bobblehead Fever at Kane County – catch it, if you can.

Last summer, the Cougars celebrated Christmas in July with a Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation bobblehead giveaway that fans went bonkers for, including dozens who missed it and then emailed Amy Bromann, promotions director for Kane County, asking how they could get their hands on one. Such success has resulted in a follow-up promotion on July 20 with the Clark Griswold bobblehead giveaway.

“People were so excited about it last year so we’re doing something similar again,” Bromann says. “We’ll also have some games on the field, Santa will be here, we’ll show some video clips and stuff like that.”

Other popular bobblehead giveaways including Youth Baseball and Softball Night with a former Cougar, and current Cubs catcher, Willson Contreras bobblehead on June 14 and the inaugural Office Night on July 26 with a Michael Scott bobblehead. For everyone’s safety, fireworks will thankfully be presented by the folks at Melrose Pyrotechnics and not by Dwight Schrutte.

Bromann is especially excited about the inaugural LEGOLAND Night on July 6 and Ferris Bueller Night on July 19.

“The first 1,500 fans will receive the LEGO giveaway and we’ll have a LEGOLAND mascot here,” she says. “The really cool thing is we’re going to have a professional LEGO builder here who is going to build the Cougars logo with LEGOS. It’s something timeless, fun for all ages and we thought it would be a nice fit.”

Plus, there will be fireworks after the ballgame.

You may not be able to get a sausage from Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago, but there will be plenty of delicious polish sausage, Italian sausage and other delectable items at the concession stands during Ferris Bueller Night. Plus, arrive to the ballpark early as the first 1,500 fans will receive a Save Ferris T-shirt.

“Most people know the movie was filmed here (in Chicago),” Bromann says. “It’s just a lot of fun and we’re doing it on a ‘Thirsty Thursday.’ It’s such a quotable movie and we still show the ‘Hey batter, batter, batter, sssswing batter,’ during our games.”

Schaumburg Boomers
(847) 461-3695
Riley Anderson, director of promotions for the Schaumburg Boomers, is jumping right in and making a splash with numerous new special events this summer.

“We have a new GM and I’m new and we’re both very excited,” she says. “We have a lot of plans for the year including a lot of new things.”

Some of the many new events including Pinot in the Park on June 6, LEGO Night on June 22 and Stranger Things Night on July 20. Those who are fans of the ‘90s television hit “Saved by the Bell!” will relish Educators Appreciation Night on June 12, when Dennis Haskins, who played Principal Belding on the show, will be at the park for photo opportunities, to sign autographs and reminisce about Zack Attack.

Looney Tunes Night on June 1 is another one of 27 themed events for Boomers fans to enjoy this summer.

“I’m really excited about Looney Tunes,” Anderson says. “It’s a very creative event and a lot of fun for the kids. The format is with stations and photo booths so the kids get to show their creative side and there will be plenty of Bugs Bunny.”

There’s also Dad Night on June 7.

“It’s a funny premise that were taking for all the dads out there,” Anderson says. “There will be lots of dad jokes, discounted dad hats, a dad bod contest and a lot more.”

Schaumburg has also scheduled 20 fireworks nights throughout the season.

Windy City Thunderbolts
(708) 489-2255
July 13 falls on a Friday this year and Johnny Sole, director of community relations for the Windy City Thunderbolts, took notice and the Thunderbolts will offer their first ever Fright Night on an actual Friday the 13th.

The guest of honor is none other than Svengoolie. No word on whether he’ll be pelting fans with his infamous rubber chickens as he so often does on Saturday nights on MeTV.

“We’re looking forward to all of the fireworks nights and promotions, and we’re especially excited about our first Fright Night,” Sole says. “Having a TV legend like Svengoolie here, I think a lot of people will be excited for that.”

He won’t be the only special character that night as other creepy creatures will be roaming around the ballpark. Kids are encouraged to dress up as if it’s Halloween and participate in the pregame costume parade and will receive a free hot dog and soda/water for their efforts as well as plenty of candy to keep their local dentists busy.

Additionally, after every Friday and Saturday home game, there will be fireworks at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood.

“Whenever we’re home for a weekend there’s something happening,” Sole says. “We’ve got a little bit of everything, both old and new, and our Elvis, Beatles, Princess and Superhero Nights are always popular ones.”

Beatles Night is June 2, Johnny Cash Night is June 16, Princess Night is June 23, Harry Potter Night is June 29, Jimmy Buffett Night is July 14, Country Night is Aug.4, Elvis Night is Aug. 18 and a Super Mega Fireworks Spectacular is set for Aug. 25.

Be sure to check any of the minor league organization’s websites for a full list of promotional events this summer as well as special offers the can save you a lot of money while still having a great time at the ballpark.