The Cubs had the day off. I had the day off. So it felt like a perfect day to make the drive of a little under an hour over to South Bend, Indiana to watch the Chicago Cubs’ Single-A affiliate, the South Bend Cubs, take on the Great Lakes Loons at Four Winds Field.
It was a 10:30 a.m. start, one of the team’s “Education Days” where local schools brought kids to the game for a field trip. So, there were far more kids in the stands than adults. Most of the kids that I saw seemed to have only minimal interest in the game and seemed more concerned about eating or playing around. Though this was my first trip to a South Bend Cubs game, I’ve been to other minor league games, so I know that to many folks these games are more about socializing than watching baseball. I think this was even more the case today than normal.
I was in the minority of fans who were much more focused on watching the game. Having watched a lot of Major League Baseball games (and having attended a game at Wrigley Field less than a month ago), I have to say that watching low-A players is, at times, painful. The catchers’ mechanics blocking pitches behind the plate were terrible. Players frequently missed the cutoff man. A catcher even threw a ball into left field trying to throw it around the horn after a strikeout. At one point, with runners on first and third, a right fielder caught a fly ball and tried to throw home to nail the runner, but there was no chance. No one even tried to cut off the throw. It was an almost perfect throw, but the runner still beat it easily, allowing the runner on first to easily take second.
Then, there was the baserunning. Three different baserunners got into a rundown; two of them got picked off. The other one made it back safely to first base because neither the pitcher nor any of the infielders bothered to cover the bag. These plays occasionally happen in a big league game, but I’ve never seen a big league game with this many fundamental errors. Obviously, the gap in talent between low-A and the majors is huge, but the need to work on fundamentals might be just as big of a reason why most of these players are there.
But I guess I shouldn’t spend too much time complaining. All this being said, it was still enjoyable to spend the day outside watching baseball. It was hot and hazy in the early innings and got cloudier until it started to rain in the eighth. With the inclement weather and the home team down late (the Loons won, 9-4), by the ninth inning there were maybe a couple dozen people left. I moved down from my seat several rows back to the first row, right behind home plate, for the final inning. Watching baseball from that angle is a whole different experience. I especially could notice the movement on the pitches very well.
The South Bend Cubs have received a lot of praise for their overall minor league experience, and I can see why. Four Winds Field is a great place to watch a game. My one minor complaint is that there aren’t many good spots to provide relief from the elements (such as sun or rain), but otherwise it’s a clean, modern-looking facility that also is relatively easy to get to. Growing up in Battle Creek, MI, I went to a lot of minor league games at C.O. Brown Stadium, which felt like a dungeon compared to this.
If you live in Michiana or are ever in the area, be sure to go to a South Bend Cubs game. And who knows, you may see some future Chicago Cubs star players.