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Windy City ThunderBolts
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Team logo Cap insignia
Information
LeagueFrontier League (1999–present) (West Division)
LocationCrestwood, Illinois
Ballpark
  • Ozinga Field (1999–present)
  • Howie Minas Field (1998)
  • Brennan Field (1995–1997)
Year founded1995
Nickname(s)The Bolts
League championships3 (1998, 2007, 2008)
Division championships3 (2007, 2008, 2010)
Former name(s)
  • Windy City ThunderBolts (2004–present)
  • Cook County Cheetahs (1997–2003)
  • Will County Cheetahs (1996–1997)
  • Will County Claws (1995)
Former league(s)
  • Heartland League (1996–1998)
  • North Central League (1995)
ColorsBlue, black, white
     
OwnershipBrian Kahn
ManagerBrian Smith
General ManagerMike VerSchave
MediaWXAV, Daily Southtown
Websitewww.wcthunderbolts.com

The Windy City ThunderBolts are a professional baseball team based in the Chicago suburb of Crestwood, Illinois, in the United States. The ThunderBolts are a member of the Frontier League,[1] which is a partner league of Major League Baseball.[2] Since 1999, the ThunderBolts have played their home games at Ozinga Field.

History

The franchise known as the Windy City ThunderBolts started as the Will County Claws in 1995 and played their home games at Lewis University's Brennan Field in Romeoville. The Claws played in the struggling North Central League, which started in 1994 with six teams but fielded only four in 1995. The North Central League folded 18 games into its second season with the Claws finishing at 8–10. In 1996, the Will County Cheetahs joined the new four-team Heartland League.

In winter 1997, the Cheetahs and the village of Crestwood, made a deal for Crestwood to build and own a new ballpark for the Cheetahs. Despite the high hopes for baseball in Crestwood for the 1998 season, it was quickly obvious that because of construction delays, the new park would not be ready. The Cheetahs needed a home field and with Romeoville not an option, neighboring Midlothian would be the solution to the Cheetahs' home field problem as they would play their 1998 season at tiny Howie Minas Field. In Midlothian, the Cheetahs would have one of their best seasons finishing in second place with a 37–29 record in the first half and earn a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history. In the Heartland League championship, the Cheetahs swept the heavily favored Tennessee Tomahawks 2 games to 0 to gain the franchise's first title.

The Heartland League started the 1998 season with six teams and finished with only four teams. The Cheetahs, now known as the Cook County Cheetahs, won the last ever Heartland League championship as the league folded after three seasons.

In 1999, the Cheetahs joined the stable Frontier League and have been members since. The team changed their name to the Windy City ThunderBolts. An ownership change instigated the name change.

On August 26, 2007, the ThunderBolts won their first Central Division title. On September 17, 2007, they defeated the Washington Wild Things to win the Frontier League championship, three games to two. In 2008, they repeated a division title as the West Division champions and Frontier League champions, defeating the Kalamazoo Kings three games to none in the championship series. After heavy rains flooded Homer Stryker Field, the entire 2008 championship series was played at the Thunderbolts' Standard Bank Stadium. They thus became only the second Frontier League team to win back-to-back titles, joining the 2001–02 Richmond Roosters.

The ThunderBolts currently play at Ozinga Field (which was renamed from Standard Bank Stadium in 2018) which is located in Crestwood, Illinois. Ozinga Field is easily accessible from the south suburbs, located two blocks east of Cicero Avenue on the Midlothian Turnpike (1.5 miles south of I-294).[3]

On April 23, 2019, Assistant General Manager Mike VerShave was named General Manager. Having served as Assistant General Manager since 2014, VerShave replaced former General Manager Mike Lucas.

The club celebrated its 20th Anniversary on the weekend of June 1–2, 2019. The team wore Cheetahs uniforms as a part of the celebrations.

On November 30, 2021, former Thunderbolt concession worker Mitch Regan was named General Manager, replacing Mike VerShave. Regan previously served as the Mayor of Oak Forest. In an interview with former colleague Mitch Levine, he noted there were no surprises as Regan has been considered “GM” by colleagues dating back to 2007.

Players

Dylan Axelrod

The San Diego Padres bought the rights to Cheetahs pitcher Chris Oxspring in 2000. He became the first player in franchise history to play in Major League Baseball (MLB). He played in five games for the Padres in 2005.

In 2011, Dylan Axelrod became the first former ThunderBolt and second player in franchise history to play in MLB, having been called up by the Chicago White Sox.

On August 5, 2008, Isaac Hess threw the first no-hitter in ThunderBolts history. Tyson Corley threw the second on August 28, 2012.

Pitcher Andrew Werner became the third player in club history to make it to the majors when he started for the San Diego Padres in 2012.

Former major leaguer Josh Spence played with the ThunderBolts in 2014.

Tommy Nance played with Windy City in 2015. He later went on to be the 4th ThunderBolt alumni to reach the major leagues when he debuted with the Chicago Cubs in 2021.

All 30 Major League Baseball teams have signed players out of the Frontier League. The Cubs, Mariners, Royals, and White Sox currently have former ThunderBolts' players or coaches in their organizations.[when?] There is a total of 32 players who have reached the major leagues after playing in the Frontier League.[4]

Seasons

Year W–L W% Place Postseason
Will County Claws (North Central League)
1995 8–10 .444 3rd Did not qualify
Will County Cheetahs (Heartland League)
1996 28–31 .475 3rd Did not qualify
1997 31–39 .442 3rd Did not qualify
Cook County Cheetahs (Heartland League)
1998 37–29 .560 2nd Heartland League Championship Series: Defeated the Tennessee Tomahawks 2–0.
Cook County Cheetahs (Frontier League)
1999 41–43 .488 3rd in FL West Did not qualify
2000 38–46 .452 3rd in FL West Did not qualify
2001 28–53 .346 6th in FL West Did not qualify
2002 40–44 .476 3rd in FL West Did not qualify
2003 42–48 .467 5th in FL West Did not qualify
Windy City Thunderbolts (Frontier League)
2004 37–57 .394 5th in FL West Did not qualify
2005 39–57 .406 5th in FL West Did not qualify
2006 41–54 .427 4th in FL West Did not qualify
2007 68–28 .708 1st in FL Central Frontier League Division Series: Defeated the Rockford Riverhawks 3–0.
Frontier League Championship Series: Defeated the Washington Wild Things 3–2.
2008 60–36 .625 1st in FL West Frontier League Division Series: Defeated the Southern Illinois Miners 3–1.
Frontier League Championship Series: Defeated the Kalamazoo Kings 3–0.
2009 56–40 .583 2nd in FL West Frontier League Division Series: Lost vs. River City Rascals 3–0.
2010 56–38 .596 1st in FL East Frontier League Division Series: Lost vs. Traverse City Beach Bums 3–1.
2011 48–48 .500 4th in FL East Did not qualify
2012 54–42 .563 2nd in FL West Did not qualify
2013 50–46 .521 3rd in FL West Did not qualify
2014 35–60 .368 7th in FL West Did not qualify
2015 41-55 .427 6th in FL West Did not qualify
2016 42-53 .442 5th in FL East Did not qualify
2017 51-45 .531 3rd in FL East Did not qualify
2018 41-54 .432 6th in FL East Did not qualify
2019 42-54 .438 3rd in FL East Did not qualify
2020 -- -- -- Season not played due to COVID-19
2021 43-53 .448 3rd in FL Central Did not qualify
2022 -- -- -- --
Total 1012–1056 .489
Playoffs 15–8 .652 3 Division titles, 5 Playoff appearances, 3 Championships

Current Roster

Active (24-man) roster Coaches/Other

Pitchers

  • 16 Neil Abbatiello
  • 18 Miguel Ausua
  • 20 Colby Blueberg ‡
  • 30 Brayden Bonner
  • 21 Cam Brown
  • 31 Garrett Christman
  • 99 Jose Diaz
  • 30 Cal Djuraskovic
  • 25 Ryan Hare
  • 35 Bryan Ketchie
  • -- Daniel Kight
  • 14 Kenny Mathews
  • -- Ryan Miller
  • -- Andrew Mitchel ‡
  • 35 Dylan Prohoroff ‡
  • 29 Layne Schnitz-Paxton
  • -- Sebastian Selway
  • 33 Tyler Thornton
  • 22 Logan Wiley
  • 26 Stetson Woods
    Injury icon 2.svg


Utility players

  • 32 Jairus Richards
  • 24 Payton Robertson
  •  9 Nikola Vasic
 

Catchers

  • 17 Rob Calabrese
  • -- Aloysius Cruz
  • -- Cordell Dunn Jr.
  • 15 Peyton Isaacson
  • 12 John Sechen

Infielders

  • -- Jason Dicochea
  •  4 Brynn Martínez
  •  2 Jace Mercer
  • -- Daryl Myers
  • 37 Rob Weissheier
  • 20 Hunter Wells
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Outfielders

  • -- Andy Gaytan
  • 24 Jose Layer
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  • 19 Dan Robinson
  • 11 Zac Taylor
 

Manager

  • -- Brian Smith

Coaches

  • -- Kevin Santiago (Hitting)

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Disabled list
‡ Inactive list
§ Suspended list

Roster updated April 19, 2022
Transactions

Notable alumni

References

  1. ^ "Windy City Thunderbolts". frontierleague.com. The frontier league. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  2. ^ "American Association, Frontier League now MLB Partner Leagues". Ballpark Digest. August Publishing. September 24, 2020. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  3. ^ "Windy City Thunderbolts: About Us". www.wcthunderbolts.com. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  4. ^ "Windy City Thunderbolts: About Us". www.wcthunderbolts.com. Retrieved October 21, 2019.