southtownstar
PROPER 
Weather Updates

Baseball: Bart Zeller-led Washington Wild Things finish sweep of Slammers

In 72-year-old Bart Zeller, the Frontier League has living proof that baseball is a game for all ages.

The energetic Chicago Heights native and longtime coach is enjoying his second season as manager of the Washington Wild Things.

“These kids, they all have a dream,’’ Zeller said. “I had my dream. Not for long, but I got there. What I’m trying to impart to them is there’s 12 ex-Frontier League players in the major leagues.

“I don’t sell snow to the Eskimos. I’m selling the real dream that these kids got to believe that they can do it.’’

They certainly did it to the Joliet Slammers. Washington’s 4-3 come-from-behind win Thursday night at Silver Cross Field gave the Wild Things a three-game sweep.

Nick Ratajczak, who led Joliet Catholic to the Class 3A title in 2009, provided the go-ahead RBI for Washington with an infield hit in the sixth inning.

Danny Hernandez had a two-run triple for Joliet (5-7).

Zeller made the St. Louis Cardinals’ major league roster in 1970 and later played and coached in their minor league organization. He was Frontier League Manager of the Year in 2011 when he guided the Slammers to the championship.

“Everybody always asks me, ‘How long are you going to do it?’ ’’ Zeller said. “I always say ‘As long as I’m able to.’ ’’

Zeller lived most of his first 50 years in the south suburbs, including Olympia Fields and Richton Park, the latter where he raised his family.

Originally hired by the Wild Things last year to be a bench coach, Zeller became manager when former Cleveland Indians catcher Chris Bando had to step down as skipper because of medical issues.

“I look forward in the winter to getting up in the morning, spending four hours at the computer looking at ballplayers, trying to figure out if we can add a player,’’ Zeller said. “This winter we had a conference call every Tuesday with my coaches and general manager.

“It really helped us focus on the needs of the ballclub and what we wanted to accomplish. As opposed to one guy doing it all, everybody was kind of contributing. It worked out really well.’’

Zeller and the Wild Things will be back in the area in mid-August for a series against the Windy City ThunderBolts at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood.

After upcoming back-to-back road series, the Slammers return to Silver Cross Field June 6 to start a six-game homestand against River City and Traverse City.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.