In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings broke new ground as they stepped to the plate. For the first time, an assembled starting roster of baseball players was being openly paid to play. If ever a case was made for “getting what you pay for,” that team was it. The Red Stockings hit pay dirt and finished the season with a perfect 57-0 record.
Thus, the theretofore genteel pastoral pastime of “base ball” became a professional sport. And the “National Pastime” was born.
Professional baseball celebrates is sesquicentennial this year. No one’s planning a bigger block party than Indiana’s backyard neighbor. Though not a direct descendant of that original Red Stockings team, the Cincinnati Reds are marking pro baseball’s 150 years with throwback uniforms, promotions and specials all season long.
While Indiana has no current Major League “home team,” Hoosiers certainly have had a role in developing the game and witnessing its growth from the very start — and still does. Five professional minor league teams around the state offer Hoosiers a great chance to catch some of the game’s rising stars.
Here’s the lineup:
2019 Opener/ HOME opener:
May 10 (6:35 p.m.) vs. Southern Illinois Miners
Playing in historic Bosse Field, the Otters celebrate their 25th anniversary season in 2019. The Otters are coming off a 51-45 record in 2018. They made their third consecutive Frontier League postseason appearance last year. Most of the 2018 roster is expected to return this season.
When the Otters began play in 1995, they brought pro baseball back to Evansville for the first time since the Triple-A Evansville Triplets relocated following the 1984 season. The Otters’ home, Bosse Field, opened in 1915 and is the third oldest ballpark in the United States, behind Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston. It was the nation’s first municipally owned sports stadium.
In 1991, scenes from the film “A League of Their Own” were filmed at Bosse Field.
Fort Wayne TinCaps
Affiliation: Class-A, San Diego Padres
2019 Opener/ Home Opener: April 4 (7:05 p.m.) vs. Lansing Lugnuts
While the TinCaps are coming off a 64-74 season, 2019 looks bright. Nine recent TinCaps players are among Major League Baseball’s Top 100 prospects, and MLB.com, ESPN, and Baseball America have ranked the San Diego Padres farm system No. 1 in baseball talent.
This continues Fort Wayne’s knack of fielding talent dating back to the start of the franchise in 1993 (when they were known as the Wizards). Since then, 172 Fort Wayne players have gone on to reach the major leagues.
After the 2008 season, coinciding with their move to the beautiful new downtown Parkview Field, the team changed its name to better reflect Fort Wayne heritage. The TinCaps is a doff-of-the-headwear to Johnny Appleseed, the eccentric itinerant pioneer who was known to sport a tin cooking pot on his head as he planted apple trees across the upper Midwest in the early 1800s. He died and is buried in Fort Wayne.
Gary Southshore Railcats
May 16 (6:05 p.m.) at Chicago Dogs
Home Opener: May 21 (7:10 p.m.) vs. Sioux City Explorers
The Gary SouthShore RailCats are coming off a division-winning 59-41 season in 2018, the most wins in franchise history. It was the second straight season the RailCats played in the postseason. Like the Evansville Otters, the RailCats are an independent league team.
The RailCats have been around since 2002 and became a member of the American Association of independent teams in 2011 after the Northern League dissolved.
The team plays at U.S. Steel Yard, widely recognized as one of the top minor league ballparks in the country, and the RailCats play has kept the seats filled since it opened in 2003.
Enter to win a Gary SouthShore RailCats suite for 20 people.Go ONLINE to bit.ly/2EG367P by May 1.Prize includes 20 suite tickets and two VIP parking passes to a Sunday–Thursday game. Food and beverages are not included.
Affiliation: Triple-A, Pittsburgh Pirates
April 4 (6:05 p.m.) at Columbus Clippers
April 11 (7:05 p.m.) vs. Charlotte Knights
Coming into 2019, the Indians are expected to be one of the youngest but most talented teams in Triple-A. As the top farm club of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Indians expect to have at least nine of the Pirates top 30 prospects on its Opening Day roster
Indiana University fans may want to keep an eye out for right-handed starting pitcher Aaron Slegers. The 26-year-old was the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in 2013 and a key part of the IU team that made its first-ever appearance in the College World Series. Slegers was a fifth-round draft choice by the Minnesota Twins in 2013 and was picked up by Pittsburgh this offseason.
The Indians play at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. The ballpark, which opened in 1996, has received many national accolades as one of the best minor league stadiums. Over the past four seasons, the Indians have either led Minor League Baseball in attendance or set a single-season attendance record every year.
South Bend Cubs
Class-A, Chicago Cubs
2019 Opener/ Home Opener: April 4 (7:05 p.m.) vs. West Michigan Whitecaps
In 2015, Northern Indiana baseball fans must have felt a double stroke of good fortune. That’s when South Bend’s Class-A baseball club became an affiliate of the ever-popular Chicago Cubs — just in time for Chicago’s pennant chase in 2015 and World Series championship in 2016.
The South Bend Cubs finished 2018
with a 64-74 record. South Bend had top catching prospect Miguel Amaya, first-round pick Nico Hoerner, and the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year, Jared Young, last year and hopes to build on that young talent. Also, at any time, fans might see a favorite Chicago Cubs player passing through South Bend while rehabbing an injury.
South Bend’s pro club began in 1988 as the Silver Hawks. The Cubs will host the Midwest League All-Star Game and events this year at its downtown ballpark, June 17-19. Four Winds Field has been ranked as the Best Single-A Ballpark by BallparkDigest.com.
On the way up
Along with these five minor league teams, Indiana is home to six teams from the summer collegiate wood bat leagues. These local teams field top college talent who have hopes of breaking into the professional ranks.
• Dubois County (Huntingburg) Bombers
• Kokomo Jackrabbits
• Lafayette Aviators
• Northwest Indiana (Whiting) Oilmen
• Richmond Jazz
• Wabash Valley (Terre Haute) REX.
Please check out their websites, schedules, fun promotions, and ticket packages, too.
Then sit back, or stand up, have some peanuts or Cracker Jack, and “root, root, root for your ‘Indiana home’ team!”