Night at the Ballpark to feature meal, special events to kick off South Bend Cubs season

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By: Marshall V. King
mking@flavor574.com

Marshall V. King/Flavor574

Baseball fans, perhaps being prone to slurping up odd stats, are prone to counting down days until something.

Seventeen days from now, the South Bend Cubs will have their first game of the year at Four Winds Field.

Sixteen days from now, you have a chance to have a lot of fun at Night at the Ballpark.

On April 6, The Elkhart Truth and Flavor 574 will host this great event with the South Bend minor league team in order to get ready for the start of the season. I would say “warm up” for the season opener, but we’re hoping for soft spring breezes and moderate temperatures.

We were talking with Joe Hart, president of the team, about a way to usher in the start of this season, and Night at the Ballpark came to be.

A $5 ticket gets you into the ballpark. Concession stands will be serving the Fenway Franks, Ben’s Soft Pretzels and other items for the first time since last season, when the team set attendance records.

The batting cages in the Performance Center will be open. A hitting coach will be on hand. The inflatables the kids enjoy so much that lay beyond the center field wall will be open.

The newly formed team, fresh from spring training in Arizona, will practice from 6 to 7:30 p.m. After that, the players will sign autographs. The first 500 people through the gates will get a photo poster of the players for them to sign.

After the practice, kids can run the bases. I suppose adults can too, but the idea of opening the field is to let kids tromp a bit on the field.

Night at the Ballpark

  • Gates open 5:30 p.m. April 6. Practice starts at 6 p.m.
  • Cost: $5 gate admission, $25 for Flavor 574 meal (limited seating)
  • Included in gate admission: Kids’ activities, watching practice, access to concession stands, access to batting cages, autograph session
  • Tickets: Sold at southbendcubs.com and four tickets to the meal will be given away to someone who completes a ballpark food quiz
  • Sponsors: Old National Bank and Welch Packaging with The Elkhart Truth and Flavor 574, as well as South Bend Downtown Dining Alliance

If you’re able to spend a little more than $5 for your first taste of baseball and ballpark food, Flavor 574 is having a meal in the Stadium Club overlooking the field behind home plate. For $25 a person, you can get beef brisket, pulled pork, chips, and house-made macaroni and cheese and coleslaw. There will be a cash bar.

You can buy tickets for either the meal or gate admission at southbendcubs.com. If you want a chance at winning tickets for the meal, we’re giving away four to a lucky winner who takes this quiz. We’ll draw a name at random from those who take the quiz.

There will be several giveaways in the dining event. After the practice, manager Jimmy Gonzalez will come speak to the group.

After the practice, WNIT will show a new documentary on Jackie Robinson on the stadium’s big screens. People will be able to watch this piece on a great man who changed more than baseball at the ballpark.

Why do all this? It really is to get ready for the season and have some fun, but it will also raise money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County. The clubs in Nappanee, Middlebury, Goshen and Elkhart continue to grow. Students who go to the clubs after school on weekday afternoons don’t pay much for access to help with homework and safe activities, so this event will raise some funds for the work of the great agency, led by Kevin Deary.

In addition, Boys & Girls Club members and their families will attend the event, which is during spring break week in Elkhart County.

There are reports about how the next generation isn’t as interested in baseball, about how the game moves too slow and how people don’t care as much. I roll my eyes. No matter how you feel about baseball, it’s tough to argue with the attendance numbers the South Bend Cubs put up last year. The team sold 347,698 tickets, almost 90,000 more than the year before. The team was named Ballpark Digest’s Team of the Year and also got the John H. Johnson President’s Award, minor league baseball’s top award.

Owner Andrew Berlin, who is also part-owner of the Chicago Cubs, has done amazing things at the stadium and with the team in South Bend. This whole event is just one of the cool things happening at Four Winds Field and we’re thrilled to be part of it.

If you go to Four Winds, you’ll see sponsors everywhere you look. For this event, Old National Bank and Welch Packaging stepped up to be sponsors, as well as the South Bend Downtown Dining Alliance.

I got a taste of baseball at a couple Florida spring training games recently. It’ll be a while until it’s that warm and sunny in northern Indiana, but I can’t wait for the South Bend Cubs and Chicago Cubs seasons.

As any Cubs fan will tell you, it’s not possible to know how many days there are until the Chicago major league team will win a World Series. But we hope it’s closer to 210 than 2,100.

We hope to see you at the ballpark. Consider this your invitation.

Marshall V. King is food columnist for Flavor 574 and community editor for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, mking@flavor574.com, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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