Baseball: From Germany to Crestwood: Markus Solbach likes fit with ThunderBolts
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media August 20, 2013 9:22PM
Markus Solbach, of the ThunderBolts. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 22, 2013 6:30AM
Markus Solbach didn’t know anything about baseball before he attended his first game at age 6.
That one game was all it took for a young boy from Germany to become hooked.
“I lived in Detroit from when I was 4 to when I was 6,” Solbach said. “I went to my first Tigers game and I straightaway loved it.”
Two weeks later, Solbach was back in Germany and knew one thing: He wanted to play baseball.
“When I got back to Germany, one of my friends had already been playing for a year or two,” Solbach said. “She brought me to practice and I loved it. It was amazing.”
Thus began a journey that eventually brought Solbach to Crestwood this summer to pitch for the Windy City ThunderBolts.
By the time Solbach was 19, he already had spent three seasons with the Pulheim Gophers in the Bundesliga, Germany’s premier baseball league.
He moved on to the Australia Baseball League in 2011, and was quickly signed by the Minnesota Twins in 2011.
Solbach spent parts of three season in the Twins organization and compiled solid numbers (6-5, 3.28 ERA), but never was promoted beyond the rookie level Gulf Coast League before being released in mid-July.
He quickly was picked up by the T-Bolts, who signed him July 19. He’s thrived in the Frontier League, going 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA in 221/3 innings.
“I really like that it’s a little more relaxed than affiliated ball here,” Solbach said. “Everyone’s really nice to me. They brought me into the group really easily.
“We have a lot of fans here, and the level of baseball is better than I’ve ever played at before. I’m really enjoying it.”
Solbach said he began pitching around age 15.
“I started off playing shortstop in T-ball,” he said. “When I started pitching, I’d always pitch and play third base. In Germany, we always played doubleheaders, so I’d pitch one game and play third the other.”
He throws four-seam and two-seam fastballs, a changeup and a slider.
“My fastball is definitely my best pitch,” he said. “I’d say my changeup is the second-best. My fastball is normally between 88 and 90 (mph) and I can get it up to 92 or 93.”
Solbach recently joined the T-Bolts’ starting rotation. He allowed one earned run in six innings in his first start Aug. 10 against Washington and held Joliet to two earned runs in five innings Thursday.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to start here in the States,” he said. “It’s really nice. I’m a little more sore than usual, but I really like it.”
Solbach said the biggest adjustment going from the bullpen to the starting rotation is the routine.
“My pitching coach (Brian Smith) really eased me into it,” he said. “He let me throw more and more every outing. It’s not that tough on the arm. It’s just the routine. You have four days off. You have to make an adjustment and get used to long tossing one day, going to the bullpen one day, deciding how many days rest you want before your start. On the days you start, you have the whole day off and then you start 30 minutes before the game. It just comes down to getting used to how you time everything.”
Solbach is thrilled with his situation in Crestwood, but there are still some things he misses about home.
“I just miss my family and friends,” he said. “Maybe the food, too. European food is pretty good.”