Baseball: Rookie Jon Mestas making impact with ThunderBolts
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media June 29, 2014 4:24PM
Jon Mestas, of the ThunderBolts, gets ready to bat against the Chicago Bandits for the Battle of the Sexes at Standard Bank Stadium, Monday, June 23rd, 2014, in Crestwood. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 30, 2014 2:12AM
Jon Mestas’ playing time was sporadic over the first three weeks of the season, but when the Windy City ThunderBolts rookie started getting more chances to start, he took advantage.
On June 12 in Florence (Kentucky), Mestas got his first start in a week and had two hits, including a home run. The next two nights in Schaumburg, he was back in the lineup and had two hits in each game, driving in three runs.
Just like that, it was farewell to the bench. The University of Buffalo product has started every game since, playing third base most nights.
“It’s been nice,” Mestas said. “Ever since Florence, (T-Bolts manager Ron Biga) has been giving me my chance. I’m just trying to make the most of it. Every time I get up, I try to put the ball in play and just do whatever I can to help the team win.”
Mestas entered Saturday hitting .288 with a .356 on-base percentage, and had scored 10 runs and driven in nine in 80 at-bats.
“He’s done a lot of good things,” Biga said. “He’s aggressive. He puts the ball in play. He’s swinging the bat well.”
So well, in fact, that Biga has inserted him into the leadoff spot in the batting order.
“It’s a role I’m definitely learning how to do,” Mestas said. “I’m learning how to take more pitches. It’s a different approach up there, but it’s a spot I definitely love and any way I can help this team, I will.”
Mestas said he has gotten a lot of help from the veterans on Windy City, especially fellow infielders Mike Torres and Ryan Soares.
“I’m a rookie, I’m trying to learn the ropes,” he said. It’s my first season playing third base. Torres and Soares have been nothing but helpful. They’re good guys to learn from and they’re excellent to work with.”
Mestas also has taken plenty of advice from Biga, with whom he first worked when playing in the California Winter League, where Biga was an instructor during the past offseason.
“The pitchers are a lot more polished here than in college,” Mestas said. “One of the things Ron told me in winter ball was, ‘With these pitchers, you might get one fastball per at-bat. When you get it, don’t miss it. Be aggressive.’ ”
It’s been quite a journey for Mestas. A native of Farmington, New Mexico, he ended up — after stops at junior colleges in Colorado and Kansas — all the way in Buffalo for his final two college seasons.
After winter ball, it was on to the Frontier League tryout camp and draft, where the T-Bolts selected him in the second round to launch his pro career.
“Going into the tryout camp was a good opportunity,” Mestas said. “Ron and a lot of the coaches had seen me in winter ball and knew what I could do. Hearing my name called was a blessing.
“Now I’m just trying to make the most of my rookie year and better myself as a player as much as I can.”