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Bsaeball: ThunderBolts’ Daniel Cropper finds right approach for pitching

Windy City Thunderbolts pitcher Daniel Cropper (27) offers up pitch Schaumburg Boomers Crestwood Sunday June 15 2014. | Jim Boyce/For

Windy City Thunderbolts pitcher Daniel Cropper (27) offers up a pitch to the Schaumburg Boomers in Crestwood Sunday, June, 15, 2014. | Jim Boyce/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 5, 2014 6:22AM



May 2013 was a tough time for Daniel Cropper.

The Windy City ThunderBolts pitcher, who spent part of the 2012 season posting solid numbers at Double A in the San Diego Padres organization, had been released by the Padres and went to spring training with the Frontier League’s Florence Freedom.

The Freedom released him as well, and — at least briefly — Cropper thought his baseball career might be over.

“It was a rough time, emotionally and mentally,” he said. “I turned to my family, turned to religion. It’s a good story, because I went to church on a Sunday back home and I just got this feeling that everything was going to be OK. Then the next day, (T-Bolts manager Ron Biga) called me.”

Cropper was hesitant at first, with Crestwood 820 miles from his home in Snow Hill, Maryland.

“I wasn’t sure Chicago was the right place for me,” he said. “I kind of wanted to be a little closer to me. But the T-Bolts lost Blayne Weller (who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks) and had an open spot. I came over here and ended up having maybe the best summer of my life on and off the field.”

Cropper went 8-5 with a 4.33 ERA last season for Windy City. This year, the 6-foot-4 righty has turned it on of late.

He finished a rough first half of the season with a strong start, allowing one run over seven innings July 9 in a win over Southern Illinois.

He carried that momentum into the second half, allowing two runs in 15 innings over his first two starts after the Frontier League All-Star break.

He’s lowered his ERA from 7.11 on June 15 to 4.89 entering the weekend.

“I’ve just been taking a different approach,” he said. “The biggest thing for me and all our starters this year has been getting out of the first inning. ‘Smitty’ (pitching coach Brian Smith) said you’ve got to take that closer mentality early and just go one batter at a time, one inning at a time. It’s just about getting those first three outs and then going from there.”

Cropper has provided a boost for a T-Bolts pitching staff that’s fared much better since the break.

“He’s a smart pitcher,” Biga said. “He always goes out there with a plan, knows what he wants to do and tries to execute it.”

Cropper is hoping he and the team will pile up more wins in the second half of the season. Regardless of how that plays out, he’s thrilled to continue to do what he always wanted to.

“I dabbled a bit in basketball,” he said. “I played golf. But baseball has always been my sport. My dad and uncle both played in high school. They loved the sport. I played ever since I was 5 and just kept going. It was always the dream to play pro baseball, so it’s nice to say I’ve gotten to live the dream.”



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