The fact is that the face of minor league baseball in Chicago has changed quite a bit since I last wrote about them. Basically, a number of the teams that used to play in and around the Chicago area no longer exist. What was once a dominant league has since folded. New teams have emerged and the little upstart league has now become the dominant one in the area.
The Northern League had been the home of baseball teams in Schaumburg, Joliet, Rockford and Gary, Indiana. That league folded a couple of years ago. Now, the Frontier League, the one that had been the home of teams in Rockford, south-suburban Chicago and other areas throughout the Midwest, has now become the dominant league.
At the same time, several teams that have been around for a while continue to do well. There is also still at least one major league-affiliated minor league team still in the Chicago area and still doing well in terms of attendance and play on the field.
Here are the minor league baseball teams in and around the Chicago area and who, currently, still have plans to field a team in 2014:
The Kane County Cougars - the professional team that is affiliated, these days, with the Chicago Cubs. They are a class-A affiliate of their bigger cousin just down the road. They play in 5/3 Bank stadium these days, but it’s still in the same place it has always been in the western suburbs of Chicago. The team routinely does well during the regular season, but has still only one a single championship in its history.
The Windy City Thunderbolts - playing in south-suburban Crestwood, this team has been going strong in the Frontier League for a long time. It started out, years ago, as the Chicago Cheetahs, but has done much better with fans and as far as play, as the Thunderbolts. They play at Standard Bank Stadium and are in the independent Frontier League and are, thus, not affiliated in any official capacity with a major league team.
The Schaumburg Boomers - gone are the Flyers, who fell into default at the stadium. They have been replaced by the Boomers, who are part of the Frontier League. The team won the Frontier League championship last year, with the Boomers dominating for much of the season. They were also named by the league as Organization of the Year for 2013. They are also not affiliated with any major league team.
The Rockford Aviators - gone are the Riverhawks. With their relatively new stadium, not too terribly far from the airport in Rockford, they are now Aviators. The team bounced from the Frontier League into the Northern League, and are now back in the Frontier League. It’s a bit of a drive for Chicagoans, but Rockford isn’t that far for the large suburban population and they are the only professional baseball organization in Rockford.
Gary SouthShore RailCats - another one that remains and seems fully capable of weathering any storm. This team is now part of the American Association, and who won the league championship in 2013. The stadium is still located in the heart of downtown Gary, IN and attendance is still outstanding. The team is in an independent league and not officially affiliated with any major league team.