While the Major League Baseball lockout earlier this year didn’t affect any regular-season games, it likely didn’t generate much goodwill among fans.

Add to that rising ticket prices and concessions at major league ballparks and crowds of fans are unlikely to say “take me to the ball game” this summer.

Luckily, there are several minor league teams in the area — including a new one in northwest Indiana — that can help baseball fans scratch that itch without breaking the bank.

“I think we’re going to have an influx of disgruntled fans,” said Ralph Flores, majority owner of the new Lake County Corn Dogs.

The Corn Dogs, based in Crown Point, Indiana, are the newest addition to the Northern League (formerly the Midwest Collegiate League). The Northern League is a collegiate summer baseball league that includes the Northwest Indiana Oilmen, Crestwood Panthers, Chicago American Giants, Joliet Generals, and Southland Vikings.

The Corn Dogs home opener is May 26 at Legacy Fields in the Ross Park Center.

“We’ve had a great reception so far from the community and the business community, so it’s been fun,” Flores said.

They immediately began engaging with fans, he said, starting with a public team name contest. At the ballpark, they will have a kids’ area, a few fireworks nights and player interactions, he said.

Ken Miller, director of community relations for the Joliet Slammers, thinks minor league baseball is a better option for fans because it’s a fraction of the cost of a ticket to a major league game.

“From a cost perspective, it’s more attractive,” he said. “At most minor league parks, you don’t pay for parking, tickets are cheaper, concessions are cheaper, and there’s something going on between every inning. If you have kids, there’s something to keep them entertained and…they might not want to stay in the game for nine innings. If you’re not paying an extortionate price for tickets, you don’t mind leaving (early).

Minor league baseball is more communal, Miller said. The Slammers have promo nights like “Star Wars,” Princess, Harry Potter, Christmas in July, Bark in the Park, and more, he said.

“We hope this will get people out even if they don’t like baseball,” he said.

Kane County Cougars general manager Curtis Haug said the Cougars will host several fun theme nights and plenty of outdoor shows, along with 26 fireworks displays and several giveaways. There will even be pre-match concerts included in the ticket price, he said.

In addition to concession stands, there will be a taco truck, barbecue truck and pizza truck at each game.

“Everybody loves a food truck,” he said. “In addition to that, we will have bourbon slushies and wine slushies available at the concession stand.”

The minor league experience is convenient and affordable for families, Haug said.

“It’s G-rated family entertainment,” he said. “We have a children’s zone with inflatable attractions for children to play on. We let the kids run the bases after each game and the kids can get autographs from the players.

He agrees that Major League Baseball is an outing for some fans and can only help minors.

“When the lockdown was going on…it definitely helped us,” Haug said. “We actually had people calling us who normally go to the Cubs or the White Sox, saying that with the uncertainty of the Cubs and the White Sox, we’re going to come to a Cougars game because we know you’re going Company outings, social groups – they booked knowing we were going to play for sure.

People love baseball, Haug said, and even if they come for the baseball, they stay for the fun.

“They come for all the fun things we do during the game, after the game,” he said. “We do a lot to entertain people and that’s what they love. It’s basically a social gathering, and every once in a while the baseball game breaks out.

Here’s a look at the region’s minor league teams for the 2022 season.

May 12-Sept. 4. At Ozinga Field, 14011 S. Kenton Ave. Tickets: $9 to $13; $7 to $11 if purchased in advance. $2 on Tuesdays. Seniors 55 and over are free on Wednesday evenings. Veterans and active military members and one guest are free on Wednesdays and Sundays. 708-489-2255; WCthunderbolts.com.

Parking is free and tailgating is allowed before the game – just bring your own water to put out the coals.

The Thunderbolts have a busy schedule this summer; including post-game fireworks every Friday and Saturday, $2 Tuesdays with hot dogs and $2 tickets, and White Castle Wrestling Thursdays with beer specials and Zelo Pro Wrestling shows after matches.

Sunday home games are for families with tickets, hot dogs, soda, sundaes and a team promotional item for four for $39. There will be face artists and presentations from local animal groups.

Other promotions include Star Wars Night, Video Game Night, 80s Night, Princess and Pirate Night, Beatles Night, Harry Potter Night, Country Night and Elvis Night.

May 13-Sept. 5. At Northwestern Medicine Field, 34W002 Cherry Lane. Tickets: $9 to $31.25; children two and under are free unless they need a seat. $2 on Tuesdays. Parking: $10 to $15. 630-232-8811; Kccougars.com.

This summer there will be post-game entertainment by artists like Christian and Scooby, Tyler’s Amazing Balancing Act, All Star Stunt Dogs, ZOOperstars and BirdZerk. Goodies include sunglasses, floppy hats, bobbleheads and koozies. Several pre-game concerts are included in ticket prices from acts such as Planet Groove, American English and The Wayouts.

Some of the season’s theme parties are Military Appreciation, “The Office”, “Schitt’s Creek”, American Girl, Christmas in July, Country Music and “Star Wars”.

May 12-Sept. 4. At Duly Health and Care Field, 1 Mayor Art Schultz Drive. Tickets: $9 to $16; $2 off if you buy before game day. $2 on Tuesdays in advance; $3 per game day. 815-722-2287; Jolietslammers.com.

Some of the themes this summer at Duly Health and Care Field include Canadian Night, “almost” halfway through Halloween, Blues Brothers Night, World Oceans Day, Weird Friday, Night Hawaiian, American Girls’ Night, Christmas in July, Sitcom Night, Welcome Backside and “Star Wars” Night.

Local rivals include the Windy City Thunderbolts and the Schaumburg Boomers.

May 13-Sept. 5. At Impact Field, 9850 Balmoral Ave. Tickets: $9 to $25. 847-636-5450; Thechicagodogs.com.

The Chicago Dogs will offer 14 fireworks, 11 giveaways, 11 theme nights and an all-star game. Saturday theme nights include tributes to Jimmy Buffett, Elvis, “Star Wars,” St. Patrick’s Day, Bark at the Ballpark, and more.

May 20-Sept. 4. At Wintrust Field, 1999 S. Springinsguth Road. Tickets: $11 to $14. 847-461-3695; Boomersbaseball.com.

The 2021 Frontier League Champions home opener on May 20 includes the Championship Ring pre-match ceremony with a replica ring and post-match fireworks.

Theme nights include Harry Potter, “Stranger Things”, Looney Tunes, Marvel Superhero, Pro Wrestling, “Star Wars”, Jimmy Buffet and Back to School.

Nearly 20 dates will feature post-game fireworks and other promotions, including All You Can Eat Wednesdays (for $12, fans can get hot dogs, peanuts and popcorn at will), thirsty Thursdays and $1 hot dog nights.

On August 5, stick around after the game for the World’s Greatest Marshmallow Fight presented by Campfire Marshmallows.

May 23-August. 6. At Legacy Fields, 851 Ross Center Road. Tickets, $6 to $8. 219-669-7711; corndogsbaseball.com.

The new Northern League Class D Development League team, which will play its inaugural season at Legacy Fields in Crown Point, will be led by Crown Point resident and former Kansas City Royals pitcher Justin Huisman. The team will play 28 home games.

May 13-Sept. 5. US Steel Yard Stadium, One Stadium Plaza. Tickets, $10 to $14. 219-882-2255; Railcatsbaseball.com.

The Gary SouthShore RailCats are a professional baseball team and a member of the American Independent Professional Baseball Association. Their rivals include the Kane County Cougars and the Chicago Dogs.

There will be community nights, giveaways and a post-game base for the kids on several nights.

Some of the themed nights include Fireworks Friday, Signature Saturday (pre-game autographs), Sunday Fun Day ($5 signature cocktails plus a pre-game on-court grab), All You Can Eat Monday (anything that you can eat hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts for $12), Taco Tuesday ($3 tacos and $5 margaritas), Win Big Wednesday ($5 ballpark bingo and craft beer) and Thirsty Thursday ($3 12-ounce national beers and $2 hot dogs).

Other nights pay homage to the Blues Brothers, “Star Wars,” Pirates and the Princess, First Responders, and Jimmy Buffett.

Annie Alleman is a freelance journalist for the Beacon-News.