July 23, 2011
The Thunderbolts this season joined their Joliet rivals in moving to the Frontier League, an independent circuit with 12 teams, and now the neighbors are battling for leadership of the East Division.
Since starting as the Will County Claws in 1975, the team has played in four leagues, changed its name four times, called three ballparks home and still managed to win three championships. Since 1999 the team has been based at its current location; since 2004 it has had the same ownership; and since August 2007 its ballpark has been called Standard Bank Stadium, thanks to a $1 million, 10-year naming-rights deal.
The stadium has a capacity of 3,112, including upper-deck seating. Although the ballpark is plainer than those of Chicagoland's four other minor league teams, it has a unique and pleasing personality and is fan friendly.
There's a pool for party groups ($15 per person), a deck for groups of as many as 300 people behind the stands on the first-base line, a right-field patio for 50 people, a left-field pavilion with picnic tables for 50 people and party boxes for 10 to 15 people.
Prices are relatively low. The tab for two adults and two children for admission, parking, two food items apiece for the grownups and kids and two beverages for each person would be about $90 on the high end and about $74 on the low end. If the adults are beer drinkers, the tab would shrink on Thursday and Friday, which are dollar-beer nights.
"Minor league baseball is way better than major league," said J.C. Ravage of Oak Park, celebrating his 29th birthday with wife Tara and their friends in the pool. "More fun, more character. There you might pay $80 for the worst seats in the house. Here you pay $15 for the best."