The crossroads of Interstate 90 and Interstate 294 in Rosemont, Illinois is beginning to become a very familiar place. For those that attend the National Sports Collectors Convention, you too are familiar. It’s also right next to O’Hare International Airport, and as my wife knows this exit for the many outlet malls nestled between the two interstates.
Impact Field sits right along I-294 and is a new ballpark (opened in May 2018) that is home to the independent baseball team, Chicago Dogs. It has been voted as the best independent park two years in a row by Ballpark Digest. This year the Chicago Dogs baseball team received quite a bit of press because of a pretty famous former Chicago Cubs pitcher. His name: Carlos Zambrano.
On Saturday September 14, Impact Field was host to the Larry Pogofsky All Star Challenge. This event is a fundraiser for the Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation pitting former baseball stars against each other in a celebrity softball game. Zambrano was one of the highlights to the game and had home field advantage. He certainly took advantage of knowing Impact Field by hitting three home runs in the game. Here’s video of his second home run of the day.
By the way, Zambrano’s performance in this celebrity softball game came on the 11th anniversary of his no-hitter against the Houston Astros at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The game had to be moved to a neutral location because of Hurricane Ike.
ScoobyMcKay told me about this event when we met up at the South Bend Cubs game against the Beloit Snappers this summer. After reading up about it, I was all in, and bought a VIP ticket which includes a post-game barbecue where you have the chance to meet some players. I was also able to get a great seat right behind home plate in the third row.
Before the game, there was a home run derby. Former Chicago White Sox teammates Jermaine Dye and Joe Crede battled it out in the finals going to a hit-off. Crede won the home run derby.
Then it was time for the game. The Northsiders, made up mainly of former Chicago Cubs, took on the Southsiders. You guessed it, the Southsiders consisted of mostly former Chicago White Sox players. Here’s video of the Northsiders roster being announced.
Midway through the game, Scooby came down and said Ozzie Guillen was signing on the concourse. We got there just in time and were about 10th in line before a crowd of hundreds showed up. Guillen was one of five White Sox players that signed a baseball for me. The others: Jermaine Dye, Bill Simas, Dan Pasqua, and Carl Everett. I was able to get a total of 11 baseballs signed throughout the day. Former Cubs that signed included Randy Hundley, Dennis Lamp, Corey Patterson, Kyle Farnsworth, Antonio Alfonseca, and Jerome Walton.
The latter, Jerome Walton, was one of my favorites as a 7-year old in 1989. That’s the year Walton won the National League Rookie of the Year. And on my little league rookie card, suiting up for Annawan White, the backside listed Jerome Walton as my favorite baseball player.
Walton and Dwight Smith, who took the runner-up award for the 1989 Rookie of the Year, were featured guests at Club 400 this past spring. I was not able to attend due to a wedding, so I was excited to possibly meet my childhood favorite at this event. During the postgame barbecue, Jerome Walton spent plenty of time mingling with fans and I had my chance to talk to him. I saved my personal story of idolizing him and his 1989 Upper Deck baseball card as I’m sure he has heard that thousands of times. Instead, sporting my Club 400 can coozie, I talked to him about the ultimate Cubs man cave. He absolutely raved about his time at Club 400 and multiple times commented that he wants to come back. Jerome was awesome and I’m very happy that I was able to spend a couple minutes talking to him. My 7-year old self would be extremely jealous.
Fast forward a decade and a new Cubs prospect was looking to shine for the Chicago Cubs. He was a five-tool prospect drafted number three overall in the 1998 Major League Baseball draft. While he didn’t live up to all the Chicago hype, Patterson put together a decent 12-year MLB career with the Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, and St. Louis Cardinals. I was able to get a picture with Patterson during the barbecue.
Dennis Lamp was great with the fans, too. In fact, he signed a stack of cards for one person. That’s awesome of Dennis, and terrible of someone that would bring a stack of cards in a huge crowd of people. The guy handed Lamp a stack of 50 cards, and that’s no exaggeration. Dennis signed every single card. I am an autograph collector and sometimes I ask for multiple cards or photos signed, but never more than three or four. Sometimes I even feel guilty asking for a second autograph. In a scrum like that, it’s just rude to hand a player a stack of cards or a page with 10 cards.
All in all it was a great event, and I took some notes on what to do for next year’s event. First, it was a much quicker day than expected. I secured a hotel nearby, and was checked in by 6 p.m. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive for me, so I could have saved $150 (plus money on a couple beers and dinner at the hotel bar) by driving home. There was about $100 difference in the price for tickets between a regular ticket and the VIP ticket. About half of the players came up for the VIP barbecue, and a few of them grabbed food, and quickly left. I can completely understand, too, because it was held in a party area on the second floor of the stadium. It was also filled with fans with not much room to move in some of the areas.
I’ll also be prepared for pre-game autograph seeking. When I arrived I just stood on the concourse with a birds eye view to get some perspective and scout the scene. The White Sox dugout had a lot more accessibility for the crowd of autograph seekers, so that is why I was able to get more White Sox autographs than I had anticipated. Next time I’ll be sure to camp near the Cubs side.