Father’s Day weekend usually means a trip to the ballpark, and this year we hit the road to South Bend, Ind. to see the West Michigan Whitecaps play the South Bend Cubs.
It’s the first year of the team’s affiliation with the Cubs, which meant a new name. It was previously called the Silver Hawks, after the car made by Studebaker, which had a presence in the area.
The stadium name is also relatively new. Four Winds Field was previously named after Hall-of-Famer Stan Coveleski, who lived in South Bend for years.
|There were some vestiges of the old Silvehawks name.|
It’s a nice park and we had a good time despite only finding lawn seats available and the Whitecaps losing 3-2.
There’s a neat statue of Stan Coveleski near the centerfield gate. Fun facts about Stan include that he was one of 17 pitchers allowed to keep throwing the spitball after it was made illegal.
He also was known to give kids free pitching lessons in the field behind his service station.
The Cubs Den
I like how the stadium worked some of the nearby buildings into the stadium rather than have them leveled. The gift shop is a vacated synagogue, and the team treats it respectfully, with a plaque detailing the building’s history and a verse from Exodus on the wall.
The prices seemed a little steep, even by ballpark standards, but there were some fun things in here, like foam rubber Cub heads.
Star Wars Night
It’s always fun when minor league teams wear special jerseys, and we were lucky to catch the Cubs on Star Wars Night. There were not as many people in costume as the Whitecaps seem to attract, but there were enough to feel the Force.
The Cubs wore sweet Boba Fett jerseys. Gift shop had jerseys with Yoda, Chewbaca, R2-D2 and Darth Vader, which weren’t worn on the field.
The scoreboard replaced the player photos with Star Wars characters, with the Cubs swapping out for heroes and the villains replacing the Whitecaps.
Stuff for kids
The Cubs have a whole section in the outfield with giant Cubs-themed inflatables that dominates left-centerfield, making for a fun backdrop. There’s a splash pad beyond the lawn seats, and a playground just beyond that.
There also was a Cubs Performance Zone with batting cages that looked pretty neat. I liked that each cage was designated using the logo of a South Bend team of the past,
Trains and cars
South Bend’s Union has been closed since 1971, but the tracks are still there and the beautiful building looms over the wall near right field. Trains rumbled along the tracks in full view throughout the game.
Right behind the train station was the old Studebaker factory.
The lawn section was pretty small – and fairly expensive compared to other stadiums, especially considering that you have sit on the grass. But rather than the hill or berm you get at many places, the Cubs have a terraces to keep up from sliding down the hill during the game.
The down side of a lawn section is that you get a lot of disinterested kids, who in good times run in a clump to the location of any foul ball, even one four sections over. In bad times, you get kids like Noah and Manny.
Not many. Overall, the prices seemed steeper than at other minor league parks. And the team didn't have its Pass-port stamps yet after making the name change. (The stamps have since arrived, and the folks are taking care of fans who left un-stamped. Very nice people working for the Cubs.)
A good ballpark! I get spoiled by the West Michigan Whitecaps and the stadium experience there. But South Bend was a good destination for a short road trip.