062411BBMRAILCATS,  RailCats beat the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks
John Luke | The Times, file

Spring is here, and that means it's time to play ball.

Locally, the SouthShore RailCats, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox are all popular draws for families. However, there are several Minor League Baseball parks within just a few hours of Northwest Indiana that would make perfect day trips.

Many teams cater to families - offering affordable tickets and family entertainment.

Looking for a memorable summer? Visit as many as you can and keep a scrapbook or photo album of your adventures.

Fort Wayne TinCaps

Class: Class A

Major League Affiliation: San Diego Padres

"Pretty much everything we do centers around being a family-friendly experience," said Michael Limmer, vice president - marketing for the Fort Wayne TinCaps.

From budget-friendly prices (tickets range from $5 to $9) to fireworks at nearly half the games, the TinCaps is a fun experience for kids of all ages.

"We do a lot of fun games between innings and try to get the crowd involved," he said. "We can't control whether the team wins or loses, so we concentrate on making sure when the game opens all the way to the end, we jam pack it with entertainment and value."

Don't miss the food - in additional to traditional baseball park faire of hot dogs and hamburgers, 18 food carts with different themes also make their way around the park.

"We also have kid-friendly menus that include peanut butter and jelly, fries, apple sauce, milk and juice," Limmer said.

FYI: Parkview Field, 1301 Ewing St., Fort Wayne, Ind., 260.482.6400

Indianapolis Indians

Class: Triple-A

Major League Affiliation: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Indianapolis Indians are no stranger to big names. As the former team of Ken Griffey, Marquis Grissom and Bob Uecker, the Indians showcase major star power.

Another draw to the game, though, is the team's special promotions held weekly.

Kids eat free Sundays, while on Mondays, ball park staples like hot dogs and Cracker Jack are $1. Perfect for families are Thursday's Value Night - a special package that includes a game ticket, T-shirt, hot dog and soda.

Baseball fans will enjoy Signature Saturdays in which visitors are treated to autograph sessions and entertainment acts between innings.

The Indians also offer a youth clinic in which team members work with kids. The next clinic is June 6, and is free with a game ticket.

FYI: Victory Field, 501 W. Maryland St., Indianapolis, Ind., 317.269.2282

South Bend Silver Hawks

Class: Class A

Major League Affiliation: Arizona Diamondbacks

Just an hour from Valparaiso, the South Bend Silver Hawks features a Swoop Troop Kids Club - perfect for families who have little baseball fans.

Membership includes free tickets to six Sunday home games, as well as a variety of other perks - from a free T-shirt to a Meet the Team Party in August.

The team also features several other promotions throughout the season, from family days to fireworks.

FYI: Coveleski Stadium, 501 W. South St., South Bend, Ind., 574.235.9988

Kane County Cougars

Class: Class A

Major League Affiliation: Chicago Cubs

Have kids that enjoy dressing up as super heroes or princesses? The Kane County Cougars games are perfect for your family then.

With upcoming theme nights that include Star Wars Night, Radio Disney Night and Harry Potter Night, going to a baseball game provides memories for the whole family.

Other popular entertainment includes Ozzie T Cougar, the team's beloved mascot, and the Zooperstars! - creatures that flip, bounce and dance their way through comical routines with players, umpires and fans in between innings.

Don't miss Sunday afternoon either when Nancy Faust, a former White Sox and current Hall of Fame organist entertains the crowd.

FYI: Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, 34W002 Cherry Lane, Geneva, Ill., 630.232.8811

Beloit Snappers

Class: Class A

Major League Affiliation: Oakland Athletics

As a community-owned, not-for-profit baseball team, the goal of the Beloit Snappers is to keep costs low and give back to the community.

"We have no owners, and every dollar of profit we make is either reinvested into the team or put back into the community," said Matthew Bosen, general manager of the Beloit Professional Baseball Association. "We strive to keep ticket prices low and have had a general admission bleacher seat available for $5.50 for at least the last 10 years."

The team runs specials for both adults and kids nearly every day, and before coming to the game, check the local paper for a coupon for buy one, get one free tickets to the team's Sunday home games.

"Then, after you enjoy the game, we invite all kids to run the bases, and all fans can play catch in the outfield," he said.

FYI: Pohlman Field, 2301 Skyline Drive, Beloit, Wis., 608.362.2272

Lansing Lugnuts

Class: Class A

Major League Affiliation: Toronto Blue Jays

Located in the heart of Michigan's state capital, the stadium the Lansing Lugnuts call home is filled with flavorful food, family entertainment and a baseball organization that has produced 91 Major League players.

"Food is always a big part of the experience at the ballpark and is no different here," said Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, radio broadcaster for the Lugnuts.

The stadium recently added two new food venues - a Mediterranean food stand and a custom oven-fired pizzeria.

Families looking for a more private experience can take advantage of "The Clubhouse" tickets, which are $22.50 a piece, but include access to a popular, high-class, suite-level lounge. These tickets only go on sale one week before a game.

"It's a fantastic experience," Goldberg-Strassler said.

FYI: Cooley Law School Stadium, 505 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing, Ill., 517.485.4500

Peoria Chiefs

Class: Class A

Major League Affiliation: St. Louis Cardinals

Families planning on attending Peoria Chiefs during the season should consider the ball club's Chiefs Kids Club.

Membership includes free tickets, as well as meetings with team members and the opportunity to run the bases after every Kids Club game. Kids also may have the opportunity to be a guest P.A. announcer for a half inning - a memorable occasion for any age.

Kids will enjoy Disney Nights, when characters, music and videos entertain throughout the game. Other special games include Nickelodeon Day, player poster giveaways and Star Wars Night, where guests to the ballpark are invited to come dressed as their favorite characters.

FYI: Peoria Chiefs Stadium, 730 SW Jefferson, Peoria, Ill., 309.680.4000

For more information on these teams, visit milb.com.