From the Silver Hawks to the Cubs: South Bend baseball changes for the better
Remember the Silver Hawks? A lot has changed over the years for South Bend's baseball team.
Thirty years ago, they were the White Sox, an affiliate of the south siders.
Fast forward to now, they are an affiliate with the World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
A few years ago, the team’s colors were Black, green and gold.
This was a time when South Bend baseball was a little more grey.
"The facility was kind of getting older and there wasn't a lot of excitement surrounding the Ball club," said team president Joe Hart.
Before sporting the Cubbies’ red, white and blue, South Bend had the Silverhawks, a minor league affiliate to a major league team more than 1,700 miles away - the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"Arizona was a phenomenal organization to work with. I enjoyed working with them," Hart said.
But Hart says the distance meant a disconnect
"There wasn't that fan base. There was no connection. You're in a different time zone. So even as players were called up and made it to the big leagues, They were hard to find on TV and you just sort of lost touch."
Shortly after Andrew Berlin bought the team in 2011, they were about to lose their major league affiliation. So Hart and Berlin knocked on Wrigley's door.
"Typically I would advise a minor league team from taking the name of their club. But in this case, because of the proximity to Chicago and the large fan base, it was a no-brainer for us," he said.
And so, the turnaround began, turning up the south bend fan base.
"The name, the logo, the merchandise - we couldn't keep up," Hart said.
And now that the lovable losers are finally winners, the South Bend Cubs’ success is skyrocketing. Ticket sales are up 20 percent from last season. And merchandise profits continue to climb- showing pride in a hometown team- intertwined with excellence.
"While there is a pride of being tied to the Cubs, I think the local people take pride in being part of the South Bend Cubs," Hart said.