Chicago Dogs, by Rich Paschall
Perhaps you have seen a baseball movie that depicts the hard life of the minor league player. Bull Durham (1988) may be the most entertaining. It shows the fictional life of players for the North Carolina team, the Durham Bulls. One Player (Kevin Costner) stays around the minors for many years, while one rookie (Tim Robbins) makes it to “the show.” Aside from the love story and the humorous moments, the movie shows that minor league baseball is not exactly glamorous for most.
Nevertheless, there are currently 256 minor league teams associated with major league teams, and a long list of independent teams in eight leagues that have no Major League Baseball (MLB) affiliation. This means there are a lot of players who will never make it to an MLB team (aka “the big leagues” or “the bigs.”) All these minor league teams represent a lot of major dreams, but why would someone play independent baseball hoping to make it to “the bigs.” Major league teams already have 5 or 6 minor league teams they follow. Better yet, why would someone start a new independent team in the face of so many independent team failures. How many area teams do we need?
With two major league teams in our hometown, (White Sox and Cubs), another major league team just 90 minutes north, the Milwaukee Brewers, and at least five area minor league teams nearby, you would think that building a new stadium and starting a new minor league team would be a crazy dream. But there are baseball lovers willing to try it.
The Village of Rosemont, located alongside Chicago and next to a part of O’Hare airport, has added to their list of ambitious projects by building a brand new 6300 seat stadium, Impact Field. The cost was 60 million US Dollars. They sold the naming rights for a dozen years and immediately have a team to play there, the Chicago Dogs, as in hot dogs.
Last winter when we were Christmas shopping at the nearby Fashion Outlet, we saw the location of a soon to open hot dog stand that was also promoting baseball and Chicago Dogs merchandise. We did not realize then that baseball was coming on the other side of Interstate 294. I took little notice as they were not yet open for hot dogs.
This year the Dogs joined a string of Midwest, Texas and Manitoba teams in the American Association. After 3 games in Sioux Falls and 3 in St. Paul, the Dogs opened Impact Field on May 25, 2018 with a game against the Kansas City T-Bones.
We saw the Dogs face off against the Texas AirHogs in June. Texas has entered a partnership with the Chinese National Team (Beijing Shougang Eagles) and much of their team is from China. In fact so much of the roster is from China, we heard the Chinese national anthem before the game as well as our own.
Before the game, I started in the right field corner and walked the entire concourse. Unlike most parks, you can circle this field and end up where you started. I found there was an adequate number of places to purchase your Chicago style dogs. These come from Vienna Beef, the popular home town hot dog maker. They have been here since 1893 and no hot dog stand is worth its celery salt if they don’t have Vienna dogs, but I digress.
Along my route I stopped to chat with one Chicago Dogs employee who noted that some of the players have spent time in “the bigs,” while others still hope to get there. Some want experience to become coaches or managers some day at the major league level. This employee mentioned a few famous examples, including Hall of Famer and former Cub, Ryne Sandberg.
One Chicago connection on the team is outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr., son of the former Chicago Cubs shortstop. Another is Kyle Gaedale who is related to baseball Hall of Famer, Bill Veeck. The colorful Veeck worked for the Cubs and planted the ivy in the outfield in 1937. Years later he was the owner of the Chicago White Sox.
The mascot is a giant Mustard bottle, seriously. Maybe you wish to have your picture taken with mustard. There was also a ketchup bottle roaming around but we do not put ketchup on our hot dogs…ever. In addition to luxury boxes, a must at any new stadium, the stadium has party areas, a Kids Zone, a restaurant and of course, a merchandise store.
There are promotions every day for the inaugural season. Fireworks on Thursdays and Saturdays. There’s a giveaway every Friday and kids can run the bases after the game. You might want to go on Mondays however and be early. The first 1500 fans get free mustard. What could be better?
The main drawback is actually the location. The busy district of Rosemont can barely accommodate more traffic. Without much land to use, the park has a three-level parking lot alongside. On a day with a small crowd, it was slow getting in the lot. I can not imagine how they do it when the park is full.
The story needs a Boston angle for Marilyn and Garry and we have one. The manager of the team is former Boston Red Sox player Butch Hobson. Butch was drafted by Boston in 1973 and made it to “the show” by 1975. He spent six years with the Red Sox, a year with the Angels and a year with the Yankees. Hobson made it back to Boston to manage the Red Sox from 1992-1994. He is still colorful and still likes to argue with umpires. We’ll see if he gets tossed out of more games than the Dogs win.