In May, the sights and sounds of Ozinga Field will return as the Windy City ThunderBolts take the field. As the second oldest organization in the Frontier League, the Chicago-based team is looking to earn a division title – or better, a league championship.
Dugout Dish had the opportunity to talk with Johnny Sole, Director of Community Relations for the ThunderBolts on the upcoming season. Sole has been with the organization since 2017 and formerly worked with the Chicago Bandits Professional Fastpitch Softball team.
“There are so many great athletes, coaches, seasonal staff members, season ticket holders, group leaders and families along the way that come through this ballpark,” Sole said. “We missed having them and look forward to seeing those faces again and bring some baseball fun again to our communities here in the south suburbs of Chicago.”
The ThunderBolts have been in the Frontier League since 1999 and were once called the Cook County Cheetahs (from 1997-2003). And on the 20th Anniversary in 2019, the club celebrated and wore Cheetahs uniforms in the original namesake’s honor.
Dugout Dish spoke with Sole last season in the heart of the pandemic after the announcement baseball would be put on a back burner. You can read here.
“This last year has certainly been tough on everybody, and in the ThunderBolts world here, it was definitely an empty feeling not having a season,” Sole said. “Thankfully, we were able to bridge the gap with youth games and other stadium rentals once those sports were able to reopen in the past summer.”
Last summer, the organization made lemonade out of the lemons they were given during the 2020 standstill. Giving back to the community which included mascot Boomer making a few stops to say Happy Birthday to young fans.
On March 12, 2021, it was announced that weekly promos will return to Ozinga this summer. Something that will provide entertainment and give fans a piece of normalcy after a year of uncertainty.
“Some of our favorite promos will return this summer along with new ones, with all those announcements coming soon,” Sole stated. “We will continue to provide entertainment around the games, and as far as the field, our manager Brian Smith and company are working hard to bring us a good team too.”
Opening Night kicks off on Thursday, May 27 as the ThunderBolts will host the Joliet Slammers at Ozinga Field in the first of a full 96-game slate. A sight for sore eyes in a time when baseball brings not only families together, but friends too.
Chelsea Ladd is the founder of Dugout Dish and a sports reporter for her local newspaper. You can find her on Twitter @chelseabrooke and @dugoutdish.