Baseball: ThunderBolts turning up the power
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media June 28, 2012 8:08PM
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:24AM
Red-hot Chad Cregar is leading a power resurgence for the Windy City ThunderBolts.
Cregar’s game-winning grand slam in the ninth inning Wednesday night against London was his 10th home run of the season, good for second in the Frontier League, one behind Traverse City’s Jeff Flagg. It was the third homer in five games for Cregar.
The T-Bolts were last in the league in home runs the past two seasons — and over the first month of this year — but now have 24 on the year, good for seventh in the 14-team circuit.
Windy City had played 35 games through Wednesday. Last season, the team hit just 32 longballs in 96 games.
“It’s a nice change,” Cregar said. “We’ve got some guys that know how to hit it out of the park. Last year, it was brutal how few we hit.”
The T-Bolts even have done some damage at home of late. Standard Bank Stadium has gained a reputation as the league’s most pitcher-friendly park, with home runs hard to come by for the hosts and visitors the past two seasons.
This year, though, Windy City already has hit 15 homers in 20 contests in Crestwood.
Cregar and Brandon Decker (7 HRs) have done most of the damage. Others with multiple round-trippers are Jareck West (3) and Zach Aakhus (2).
While Cregar may be a contender for the league’s homer lead, he said he doesn’t think much about that.
“I’m not a stat guy and it’s still early,” he said. “Maybe the last couple weeks of the season, I’ll take a look at that leaderboard and see where I am.”
Cregar also ranked second in the league in RBI with 38, two behind Southern Illinois’ Chad Maddox.
The conclusion of the college season and the Major League Baseball draft always result in a run of new rookie signings in the Frontier League, but the T-Bolts have gone above and beyond the norm.
Windy City has signed a whopping nine rookies since June 8, though two have been released and two others — pitchers Eric Meyerchick and Donovan Drake — have been signed by major league organizations.
The T-Bolts had six players classified as “Rookie 1,” meaning they had no previous pro experience prior to this year, on their roster as of Thursday.
“The young guys we have, they’re all business and they’re here to work,” T-Bolts second baseman Mike Torres said. “They want to win. Us veteran guys are teaching them the ropes. We’re really coming together.”
The latest rookie signing was utilityman C.J. Gillman on Wednesday. Gillman is the second T-Bolts newcomer signed out of the University of Dayton, joining outfielder and leadoff hitter Bobby Glover.
Bring a good book
The T-Bolts will spend a lot of time on a bus over the next week as their longest road trip of the season, a nine-gamer, kicked off Wednesday with the team’s first international contest against London in Ontario.
From there, the team will make a 598-mile trek to Evansville, Ind., for a three-game set, before wrapping the trip with three games against Gateway in the St. Louis suburbs.
The total distance on the jaunt nearly is 1,500 miles.
The T-Bolts return home July 6 for three games against River City before the All-Star break.