Press Releases

Spring Training News & Notes

Spring training for Brian Smith’s ThunderBolts has started!  Let’s get ready for some ThunderBolts’ baseball by checking out our new & returning player acquisitions as well as three new coaches for this summer.  Finally we have ballpark improvements to announce as well as our 2019 Exhibition Schedule.

2019 Spring Training Roster… 


Returning Players:  None


Niko Pacheco began his pro career last year with 12 games for the Sonoma Stompers of the Pacific Association. He hit .324 in the spring of 2018 for Loyola Marymount University after parts of four years at Cal State Fullerton.

Gavin Stupienski spent 2018 in the American Association, hitting .236 in 34 games for the Winnipeg Goldeyes. He was a 12th round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks out of UNC Wilmington in 2016 and played two years in the Arizona system.

JT Thomas is a rookie out of Mercer University, where he hit .328 over two years with 20 home runs and 109 RBIs. He led the Bears in 2017 in doubles, batting average and RBIs.


Returning Players:

Derek Bangert: 22 G, .351 BA, 2 HR, 14 RBI

Omar Obregon: 70 G, .366 BA, 1 HR, 31 RBI, 15 SB

Tyler Straub: 93 G, .269 BA, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 10 SB


Shane Cooper played two years in the Detroit Tigers system, batting .203 in 54 games. He peaked in 2017 at High A and spent last year in Class A Short Season. He was a 37th round pick out of Hutchinson Community College, where he batted .371 in two years.

Brynn Martinez was drafted out of the 2019 Frontier League tryout. A graduate of Quincy University, he batted .361 last year with six home runs and 27 stolen bases. He finished his four-year career at Quincy with a .320 batting average and 61 stolen bases.

Randy Perez hit .390 as a senior at Central Methodist University in 2018. He also went 5-1 on the mound with a 4.93 ERA. He hit .388 with 11 homers the previous year for Ottawa University and also attended Kirkwood Community College.

Ryan Rodriguez played 44 games last year for the California City Whiptails of the Pecos League and hit .280 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. He spent 2017 in the Pacific Association after finishing his college season at Dixie State University.

Dash Winningham was an eighth round pick of the New York Mets in 2014 and hit .240 with 45 home runs and 250 RBIs in four years in the Mets organization. The first baseman spent last year in High A, batting .236 in 66 games with three home runs.


Returning Players:

Joe Becht: 49 G, .317 BA, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 9 SB

Blair Beck: 91 G, .230 BA, 10 HR, 40 RBI, 9 SB

David Oppenheim: 21 G, .235 BA, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 SB


Tanner Bos was drafted by the ThunderBolts out of the 2019 tryout. He hit .354 as a senior at Midland University last year and .335 there over two years. He also clubbed 16 home runs in 108 career games at Midland and had 86 RBIs.

Shane Carrier was a 2016 eighth round pick of the Minnesota Twins. He hit 28 home runs in his three years in the Minnesota organization. Last year he played at three levels, peaking at High A, and hit a combined .216 with ten homers and 42 RBIs.

Patrick Mathis was a 22nd round pick of the Houston Astros in 2017 and played nine games last year in the Astros farm system. He hit .231 over 49 games in 2017. He played his college ball at the University of Texas and hit .263 with 13 home runs in three years.


Returning Players:

Eddie Avila: 14 G, 2-6, 4.43 ERA

Steve Heilenbach: 6 G, 0-1, 0.96 ERA

Dan Hlad: 26 G, 2-1, 2.88 ERA

Patrick Ledet: 21 G, 7-8, 4.29 ERA

Drew Peden: 28 G, 3-2, 3.86 ERA

Joel Toribio: 40 G, 1-3, 3.26 ERA


Blake Hickman was the Chicago White Sox’ seventh round draft choice in 2016 out of the University of Iowa. He pitched two years in the Sox system and spent all of last year at High A Winston-Salem, where he went 3-3 with a 6.82 ERA in 33 games (seven starts). 

Austin Jones began his pro career with the Joliet Slammers in 2018, posting a 5.06 ERA in five appearances. He had gone 8-2 with a 2.91 ERA at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the spring and won 22 games with a 2.49 ERA in four years there.

Kenny Mathews was a seventh round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2013 and is entering his sixth pro season. He won five games between the American Association and the Pacific Association and has gone 11-11 in his career with a 3.55 ERA in 97 games (21 starts).

Connor Mayes went 5-2 with a 5.52 ERA in 13 games (11 starts) in 2018 for the Kansas City Royals’ Rookie affiliate. He was drafted by the Royals in the 24th round in 2017 out of the University of Texas, where he pitched for three years.

Justin Miller was drafted in the 12th round by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016. Last year he pitched in Rookie ball and went 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA over ten games (four starts). He appeared in 32 games for the Phillies over three years, peaking at Class A Short Season.

Christian Morris pitched in 26 games over two levels of the New York Yankees system in 2018, going 1-5 with a 3.68 ERA. He was the Yankees’ 33rd round draft pick in 2016 out of Indiana University and went 15-15 with a 3.21 ERA in 85 games for Yankee farm clubs.

Adam Oller went 3-5 in 2018 with a 6.29 ERA across two levels of the Pittsburgh Pirates system. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 20th round out of Northwestern State University in 2016 and pitched in 88 games for them over three seasons, peaking at High A.

Yianni Pavlopoulos went 1-4 with a 4.95 ERA in 18 games (five starts) for The Ohio State University in 2018. He was a four-year pitcher for the Buckeyes and went 7-13 for his career with a 4.95 ERA.

Dylan Prohoroff was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016’s eighth round. He pitched for three seasons in the Pirates organization, going 3-3 with a 4.29 ERA over 64 games. Last year, he appeared in three games for Class A West Virginia.

Cas Silber was 9-4 with a 3.63 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) in 2018 for the University of Montevallo. The rookie right-hander pitched two years at Montevallo and two at High Point University, winning 18 games overall with a 3.29 ERA.

Tyler Thorntonplayed for Brian Smith’s Rockford Rivets in the Northwoods League before beginning his professional career in the Frontier League, going 1-2 in four games with a 2.86 ERA for the Traverse City Beach Bums. He won seven games for Faulkner University in the 2018 spring with a 3.84 ERA.

Brad Thoutt had a 3-1 record and 5.87 ERA in his rookie season last year with the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association. He went 23-14 with a 4.59 ERA in 52 games (47 starts) over four years at Regis University.

Daniel Tolano went 10-0 with a 2.00 ERA at Tennessee Wesleyan University in 19 games (nine starts) in 2018. In two years with the Bulldogs, he was 14-0 with three saves. He also spent two years at Pima Community College.

Chris Washington pitched ten games last year for the Southern Illinois Miners and went 1-1 with a 5.70 ERA. He started 14 games for the Miners in 2017 out of Tennessee Wesleyan University, where he won 22 games in three years.

2019 Coaches…

John McCarthy was named new Bench Coach of the ThunderBolts on February 21, 2019. The 2019 season will be McCarthy’s first season as Bench Coach for the ThunderBolts’ staff and first season as a professional coach. 

McCarthy was a 27th round draft selection of the Texas Rangers out of St. Rita High School in 2002, but elected to attend college and hit .322 over two seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette. His professional playing career began in Crestwood as a member of the Windy City ThunderBolts in 2006. He played two seasons for the Bolts and appeared in 114 games, hitting .249 with 49 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. He was a starting outfielder for the team’s first Frontier League championship in 2007. McCarthy finished his professional career in the Northern League with the Gary SouthShore RailCats, where he put together his best professional season in 2008. He batted .289 with 19 stolen bases in 73 games. 

After his playing career, McCarthy became the head coach for Brother Rice High School in Chicago and guided them to a 186-79 record over seven seasons, a .702 winning percentage. In his last season there, the Crusaders were sectional champions and appeared in the Supersectional at Ozinga Field. He was named the head coach at Homewood-Flossmoor High School prior to the 2019 season.

Kevin Santiago was named new Hitting coach of the ThunderBolts on February 21, 2019 replacing Erik Lis. The 2019 season will be Santiago’s first season as Hitting Coach for the ThunderBolts and fifth season as a professional coach. 

Santiago’s first coaching position was as an assistant at Stagg High School for two seasons (2001-02). Santiago was hired by the Joliet Jackhammers (Northern League) to be an assistant from 2002-04 before leaving baseball. He returned last season in 2018 as an assistant for the Joliet Slammers helping the club win the Frontier League Championship. Kevin is also an assistant coach for Saint Xavier University (NAIA) in the spring season. 

Kevin played his high school ball in nearby Tinley Park at Andrew High School, where he earned All-Conference, All-Area and All-State honors. After high school he played at South Suburban College (NJCAA) in South Holland. He represented the Bulldogs well finishing as the career home run leader for the team. He also was named to the All-Regional team twice and earned All-American honors.

Brian Oliver was named new Pitching Coach of the ThunderBolts on February 21, 2019. The 2019 season will be Oliver’s first season as Pitching Coach for the ThunderBolts and first full season as a professional coach.

Oliver played six seasons professionally, including parts of 2013 and 2014 with the ThunderBolts. He pitched for two years in the Golden League and won the 2009 championship as a member of the Calgary Vipers. He went on to pitch in the American Association and the Frontier League over his final three seasons. He went 3-5 with a 4.59 ERA over 11 starts with the 2013 ThunderBolts and finished his career, making two starts for the Bolts in 2014. He retired with a professional record of 10-12 in 88 career appearances (22 starts). 

Brian attended Fresno City College for two years, Fresno Pacific University for one and Indiana State for one. Primarily a hitter in college, he hit .301 over his four years with 12 home runs and 96 RBIs in 141 games. He also appeared in 66 games on the mound and compiled a 4.66 ERA, including 2.03 over 34 games in his senior season at Fresno Pacific.

2019 Exhibition Schedule...

Saturday, April 27th at 1 pm at Schaumburg (This game has been CANCELLED, Weather)

Saturday, May 4th at 12 pm vs. Schaumburg at home

Sunday, May 5th at 12 pm at Joliet

Monday, May 6th at 12 pm vs. Joliet at home

Tickets to the home exhibition games will not be sold.  The ThunderBolts will open the ballpark and all fans are free to walk in and watch this exhibition in a general admission set-up.  Please understand that there will be no concessions, promotions, or anything like a normal ThunderBolts game.  Only the gates and the restrooms will be open.  Food and drink is allowed into the ballpark on this date and we ask that you keep Standard Bank Stadium clean and throw out all trash.

2019 Ballpark Improvements…

-       The common areas of the suite/press level of the ballpark has been completely renovated.  A new paint job as well as new flooring will greet fans in both the hallways and stairs.

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