Play Ball! Where to Take Your Family Out to the Ballgame Near Champaign-Urbana
For those who enjoy spending an afternoon (or evening) at the ballpark, this time of the year is special. But there’s more to baseball than just the major league variety.
Going to Chicago or St. Louis to see some major league baseball can be a major league pain-in-the-tush — not to mention a major league drain on your bank account — especially when hauling the smaller people with you.
But don’t fret, there are plenty of options to take your family, friends and neighbors out to a ballgame. We’re here to give you the lowdown on where to take your family to see some quality baseball action that’s within a reasonable driving distance from Champaign-Urbana — and won’t break the bank, either.
There’s still time left in 2022 to see Illini baseball or softball in person. After two years away from Illini Field and Eichelberger Field, we are relishing the opportunities to get out to the ballpark right here in Champaign-Urbana. And — it’s FREE.
But let’s face it – the Illini diamond seasons are short, and we have a whole summer ahead of us. In that spirit, we’ve put together a list of several options for taking your family to the ballpark – without breaking the bank.
Here’s some of what we found for those of you itching to get back to the ballpark — so, enjoy!
(From nearer to farther):
Why You Should Go: Visiting historic Danville Stadium (scenes from the movie The Babe were filmed there) is reason enough to go see the Dans, a team made up of collegiate players wanting experience playing with wooden bats and to get in front of scouts. If you haven’t been out to Danville in a few years, the stadium has enjoyed significant upgrades in the past several years. The season is short – just a little more than two months. Games start on June 1.
Deals to Be Had: Can’t beat the ticket prices, traditionally in the range of $6 for adults and $3 for school-aged kids; 5 and under are always free. Tuesday nights are $2 tickets. Free parking. Concessions are easy on the wallet, too.
Distance from C-U: About 40 minutes. Games start at 6:30 p.m., making it an easy weeknight outing — even from Champaign-Urbana.
Why You Should Go: The Corn Crib used to be home to a minor league team, but have settled into a new role. They host a team that plays in the same collegiate wooden bat league as the Danville Dans, the Prospect League.
Deals to Be Had: Individual game tickets start at $8 per person. (Warning: the ticketing system is a bit confusing.)
Special Promotions: There is an extensive list of promotions, including Jurassic Park in the Park, Toy Story Night, Star Wars Night, and and more. Premier nights are called “Corn Bash” nights. There are four fireworks nights: May 28, June 10, July 2 and July 30.
Distance from C-U: About an hour.
Why You Should Go: The closest minor league team to C-U that is affiliated with Major League Baseball. If you or the favorite baseball aficionado in your life is a Cardinals fan, this trip is a must. Located in downtown Peoria, there’s more to do if you want to make a weekend or a trip out of it.
Deals to Be Had: Individual game tickets start at $9 for the lawn and generally range from $14-$16 for a seat. Get a family four-pack of tickets on Fridays only for $40. On Wednesdays, get $1 hot dogs all night long. Thursday is “Thirsty Thursday” night which offers deals on beer. And Taco Tuesday finds taco and margarita deals.
Special Promotions: Sunday Funday indeed! Each Sunday home game serves as Bark in the Park Day. Also on Sunday, fans of all ages will be invited to play catch on the field pregame; following the contest, kids 12 and under are eligible to run the bases, while members of the Chiefs roster will sign autographs, pending MLB restrictions.
Distance from C-U: About 90 minutes. Get directions here.
Why You Should Go: We love the Indians games! Victory Field, the Indians stadium, is beautiful and lively. There is never a dull moment, with plenty of activities for kids all around the building. Also, it’s high quality – the Indians are a Triple-A team (the highest level of minor league baseball), affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This is a very family-friendly ballpark – ALL restrooms have changing areas, and they also have a room for nursing moms.
Deals to Be Had: Individual game tickets range from $12 to $18 per seat a game. Children 2 years old and younger receive free admission into Victory Field. Sundays, all children ages 14 and under will eat free; each child receives a voucher for one hot dog, one drink and one bag of chips. On Tuesdays, bring your appetite as hot dogs, peanuts, potato chips, Cracker Jack and popcorn are all available for just $1 each.
Promotions and Special Events: Fireworks are on Fridays, and on the Fourth of July. Prefer day baseball in the middle of the week? Matinees are on Wednesdays. On Mother’s Day, have a catch on the field. Want to bring your dog? There are a few days to do that. There are also several Marvel Superhero Nights, which often include comic giveaways and character appearances.
Distance from C-U: About two hours. Get directions here.
Why You Should Go: This is an independent league baseball team, playing in the Frontier League, the largest and longest running independent professional baseball league – an official “partner league” of Major League Baseball. Games start on May 13 and last into early September.
Deals to Be Had: Tickets start at $7, and go up. Save money on tickets by buying at least a day in advance. They have lots of deals for suites and multi-game passes.
Promotions and Special Events: It wouldn’t be a Slammers game without a promotion. Fireworks on Fridays are generally themed – and it’s beyond your typical fare. Themes include sitcoms (?), Irish night, Nickelodeon night and princess night. You can buy special packages for fireworks games. Like to bring your pup to the games? They have several days to do that. Kids can run the bases following all games (except fireworks nights). Family Sundays offer full team autographs following the game.
Distance from C-U: About two hours north.
Chicago Bandits Professional Softball
Sadly, the Bandits have disbanded. After two years of not playing due to the pandemic, the league ceased to exist.
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