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.
Illini baseball and softball seasons happen in the spring each year, but we can’t start this post without acknowledging how awesome it is to have these sporting events (for free) right in our backyard. Illinois Field and Eichelberger Field are our favorite places to get out to the ballpark right here in Champaign-Urbana.
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 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 at the beginning of June.
Deals to Be Had: Can’t beat the ticket prices, $8 per person; 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.
Why You Should Go: The Corn Crib used to be home to a minor league team but has settled into a new role. It hosts 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 $6 per person. (Warning: the ticketing system is a bit confusing.)
Special Promotions: There is an extensive list of promotions, with premier nights called “Corn Bash” nights and some fireworks nights.
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. On Wednesdays, get $2 hot dogs all night long. Other nights have promos, too, including Miller Lite.
Special Promotions: 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 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 start at $12 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, some weeks.
Distance from C-U: About two hours.
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 in May 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 folded.
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