Minor League Road Trip: A Glorious Day at Four Winds Field
Pronk completes his minor league ball park tour, Tina throws out the first pitch & meets her baseball son and we all watch the South Bend Cubs play ball!
Tidy & modern, Pronk thinks Four Winds Field is the nicest stadium he's been to this summer, having completed his minor league tour of all Cubs affiliates with a trip to South Bend. Check out his other park visits on the DNA Site.
If you love baseball, I'll bet throwing out the first pitch at a game is on your bucket list, as it was mine. Back in the fall of 2019, I was on the South Bends Cubs store website and clicked on the auctions section for fun. One item was a First Pitch Experience + tickets at a game. Click. Bid. Done. I forgot all about it cause COVID, then earlier this year, I found an email confirmation, and after a few emails to their office, I scheduled my game for 8/22/21.
If you love baseball, you may also have read stories in the last couple of years regarding the horrible pay conditions that minor leaguers face. I became acquainted with the Adopt a Minor Leaguer account on Twitter and when a Cubs player came up needing a sponsor, I volunteered and fortuitously "adopted" Jake Washer, a catcher in the South Bend A+ system.
I was really excited that I would get to meet Jake, but three weeks before the game, I found out that he had gotten promoted (yay!) to AA Tennessee and we weren't going to meet (boo!). We were so disappointed, but a week later, he was sent back to South Bend because of another catcher injury (yay?).
The big day arrived and I made the nice, easy drive to South Bend from Chicago with my sister and friend in tow. I invited Pronk & his wife, and another friend of the DNA, Daniel, who met us in South Bend. We got there early and toured the park, which is beautiful... and much smaller than a major league park. However, there are many family friendly things to do there to keep kids entertained and ticket prices are very reasonable.
We went into the Cubs Den - the team store - to have a look around.
Here, we saw their Championship trophies, right in the middle of a sales table! You can touch them! (But I didn't.)
Fun fact: Did you know that the Cubs Den Store is formerly a synagogue? The team spent $1 million in 2012 to refurbish the building to keep the local history alive.
On the wall near one of the entrances is the line up with pictures of the players. I was such a proud mom!
Also, Nico was in South Bend for his rehab assignment! That was also pretty exciting.
Before heading to fan services, I spotted Jake while he was warming up and chased him down to say hello! It was really nice to finally meet in person. I couldn't wait to see him play.
The time came for me to throw out the first pitch. There were three of us that day, I went last. I had butterflies the entire time. I practiced only four times over the last 2 months. I just wanted to throw 50' and get it over the plate. So I present to you, my brush back eephus! Since Jake was playing that day, he couldn't catch me. Bailey Horn did the honors. (Horn, a pitcher, was acquired in the Ryan Tepera trade.)
Video & cheering courtesy of Dan Hurst & the 110 Cheering Section
Thanks Pronk for the sign, but it was good I didn't see it until afterwards! I was so nervous!
Looks like this was a better use of that sign anyways (pic courtesy of the SB Cubs IG account!). The sun was brutal.
Pro tip: If you go to an afternoon game, sit rows H and up and you'll likely be in the shade as the afternoon advances.
Time to get down to business - eating! Four Winds has a reputation of having pretty good ball park food. It didn't disappoint. Look at the mess we had - loaded tots, fried cheese curds, Philly steak nachos, hot dog with relish & sauerkraut (I added the tots on top) and Pronk's dog that was drowned in chili & cheese. We missed the handmade pretzels, but it'll be on the list for the next visit!
Pronk's & Tina's food ratings: Cheese curds 10/10 (it helped that everything was made fresh to order!), Loaded Tots 9/10, Philly Cheese Steak Nachos 10/10, Chili Cheese Dog 8.5/10, Hot Dog w/sauerkraut 8/10. Don't forget to grab plenty of napkins!
The Philly Cheesesteak nachos were Pronk's overall favorite ballpark food from 2021. The components were very fresh and flavorful. For being akind of a goofy twist on a junk food, it was very VERY good and must be tried. That alone was worth the two hour drive to SB.
Oh, we can't forget about the ice cream! There were Dippin' Dots helmets (6/10), which are the weirdest dessert items ever. Freeze-dried ice cream pellets anyone?
Also, at the Sweet Spot, they had helmets with regular scooped ice cream, which was way better and what we should have gotten (9/10).
After making a mess eating, Pronk had to give props to easily the nicest public restrooms he'd ever seen at any kind of sporting event. Nice to have a sign cheering him on to pee as well. Better than the troughs at Wrigley?
The SB Cubs were wearing their "Los Cabritos Maldichos" jerseys for Copa de la Diversión (Fun Cup), an MiLB event that is designed to embrace the culture and values that resonate most with participating teams' local Hispanic and Latino communities. Los Cabritos Maldichos (Cursed Goat) is a nod to the famed Curse of the Billy Goat and celebrates the tenacity of Hispanic players and communities in the face of adversity. Game used gear was also auctioned after the game to benefit the local community. Pre-game, a local group entertained the crowd with traditional dancing.
Pic 1: Max Bain pitched pretty well. In 5 innings, he gave up 2 runs and struck out 8.
Pic 2: Jake running off field after a Bain strikes out.
Pic 3: OMG it's the Produce Race!
Pic 1: Nico felt his oblique tweak during his 2nd at-bat and left the game. 😭
Pic 2: Jake went 1-3 with a single and probably wished those people in the stands would just shut up already.
Pic 3: South Bend's only run came from a Tyler Durna home run.
Although the Cubs lost 7-1, it was a great outing in a nice ballpark. Pronk even won wings from Buffalo Wild Wings in a post game contest!
Guess where we went to dinner?
We took Jake to dinner where we got to learn more about him (he thinks Yadi is a Hall of Famer, but I suppose I won't hold that against him. Pronk might, however...). We look forward to following his career, and those of his teammates. After all, these baby Cubs are the future!
If you would like to read more about Four Winds Field & The South Bend Cubs, check out this story from last spring that Pronk wrote: Down On The Farm: How the Cubs Came to South Bend
For more information on sponsoring a minor league player, go to Adoptaminorleaguer.com and read more on sponsorship expectations or follow Michael on Twitter at @adoptmilbplayer for info on current fundraisers.