Gary Southshore Railcats fans can expect more fun this season than ever before with an improved lineup of festivals, giveaways and other activities that will make the whole family excited for a day at U.S. Steel Yard.
“It’s just kind of the perfect mix of fun and baseball and the afternoon out,” said David Kerr, the Railcats’ Director of Marketing and Promotion.
Throughout the season, the Railcats add entertainment to keep all their fans involved. Special game additions include Clunker Car Night, where everyone at the game will be entered to win an old car between each inning; an all-you-can-eat hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts night; a Kevin Bacon night with bacon- and Kevin Bacon-themed items and activities; Christmas in July, which features what Kerr believes to be the world’s largest white elephant gift exchange; and an ex-pogo stick stunt team.
No matter when fans come during the week, there is always a deal of which they can take advantage. Food and drink deals include $2 tacos on Taco Tuesdays, hot dogs on Wiener Wednesdays and draft beers on Thirsty Thursdays. Friday night games are accompanied by firework shows.
“We try to have something special every day,” Kerr said.
Festivals will once again be major attractions for the summer, Kerr said. The recent crawfish fest will be followed by a luau, the third annual Blues and Brews night and late-season Oktoberfest.
Whether just a select few or every member of the family loves baseball, the additional entertainment widens the appeal and helps everyone stay engaged and eager to return, Kerr said.
“Baseball is a fantastic game, but the best part is it helps people make memories with their loved ones,” Kerr said. “We’re able to be a part of those memories. It’s 100 percent the best part of what we do.”
Kerr said he has his own memories of listening to the games with his father and grandfather when he was young, and others like him who who love the sport can find excitement in baseball-related activities as well.
Before the Sunday games, children and their parents can go onto the field to play catch, which Kerr said is his favorite part.
He also said he loves that the Railcats always have a Little League team run on the field for the National Anthem. Kerr’s fondness for this tradition comes from the typical image he sees from the practice. Just like the grown minor league men, 8-year-old baseball players hold their hats over their hearts on the pitcher's mound.
Kerr said the Railcats like to add activities to the experience to keep their reputation as a special Region experience. The location is ideal with its the huge population of great people, Kerr said. Northwest Indiana can be overlooked because of Chicago, but Kerr thinks it is a better area for living, working and supporting a minor league team.
“To have something so unique here, it’s just the perfect place,” Kerr said.
The Railcats were not settled into their Northwest Indiana home when the team was first created. For their debut season in 2002, the Railcats U.S. Steel Yard field was not finished, Kerr said. They played over 100 games on the road that summer while the city of Gary worked to build what would eventually be U.S. Steel Yard.
The stadium was finished for the 2003 season, and they would go on to secure two of their three championships titles, in 2005 and 2007, by winning their final postseason games on the Steel Yard field that was not complete their first year. They won their most recent championship in 2013 against the Wichita Wingnuts at the opposing team’s Kansas ballpark.
Since current Railcats owner Patrick Salvi only acquired the team in 2008, he was only in charge for the most recent championship, but 2013 seemed to be his lucky year. Salvi’s Illinois team, the Schaumburg Boomers, also won their division that year.
Just like the first team of Railcat nomads, today’s 23 players are no stranger to travel. Most of the men come from far away for their spot on the team, Kerr said. The Railcats’ current center-fielder, Anthony Cheky, is a Portage native, but others have come from as far away as Colombia and Venezuela to play in Northwest Indiana.
To house them, the Railcats rely on community members who take in players the same way they might a foreign exchange student. People with children who have gone to college or maybe just an extra room offer to open their homes to members of the team during the entirety of the season, from May to September, Kerr said. Most families live near Gary in Porter or Lake Counties, but some volunteers are as far away as Lowell or Demotte.
This host family practice is a staple throughout the minor league, but Kerr said the Railcats have a bigger and more involved group than other teams he has worked with.
“What they do to our players is make them family,” Kerr said.
The hosts’ involvement does not stop at the doorway. Kerr said they get season tickets to watch their player, and many more take it even farther. Kerr has known families to travel across the country to attend weddings of men who have stayed at their homes in the past.
For more information on the Railcats' 2017 Season of Baseball and Fun, click here.