US Steel Yard
Review by Gary & Mike
Located right off Interstate 90, Gary, Indiana’s SouthShore RailCats have played at U.S. Steel Yard since 2003, when the stadium was completed. With stadium construction behind schedule in 2002, the RailCats were forced to play their first season in the independent American Association entirely on the road. The team traveled approximately 12,000 miles to play 90 games in their first year. The lengthy team name derives from the city's deep history as a junction point for east/west freight trains and the SouthShore commuter train which can be seen passing beyond the left field fence during games.
The stadium’s claim to non-baseball fame is that it hosted a memorial service for deceased pop musician and Gary native Michael Jackson on July 10, 2009. Over 6,000 fans attended the service, yet I could not find the 7’ x 4’ plaque that was placed in honor of the King of Pop in the park.
With the team website indicating that the midday game was nearly sold out, we felt the need to “beat it” to secure tickets in advance. However, it appears that this was merely a ploy to get unsuspecting out-of-towners to pre-pay for this “thriller” of a Senior (Citizen) Day at US Steel Yard. Not only was the game nowhere near being sold out, the only ticket taker at the gate let us in without checking our tickets because his scanner wasn’t working.
Despite maybe 600 people in the stands, the PA announcer delivered between-inning trivia and audience participation events with the same enthusiasm and gusto as he would for a full house. It was entertaining to watch a scattered crowd of septuagenarians attempt to do a wave that struggled to resemble a ripple and cheer on the few younger folks in attendance as they hunted for tossed t-shirts that had been devoured by swaths of empty seats. It was so “Bad”, it was good. Good fun, that is.
US Steel Yard follows the design template of many minor-league ballparks designed in the early 2000’s, with berm seating, picnic areas down the lines and second-level air-conditioned suites that run from base-to-base. The outfield presented a rugged Great Lakes industrial landscape with the elevated highway, the trains trundling back and forth and hulks of abandoned factories and refineries beyond that. Maybe it was the hot August afternoon, maybe it was somnambulant crowd, but US Steel Yard felt tired, as if going through the motions, hoping for a spark to bring back the glory days.
After a “moonwalk” completely around the ballpark, we found a nifty feature to be the on-field location of both bullpens next to one another in front of the right field wall. This quirky alignment created jagged angles making any ball hit “Off the Wall” a potential adventure for outfielders. As the visiting Canaries poured it on at the plate, in the silence of US Steel Yard, we could hear their manager yell “Don’t Stop ‘til you get Enough” runs! Here’s hoping for better days for both the RailCats and the town of Gary, Indiana.