The Windy City ThunderBolts have named Brian Smith the 18th Field Manager in franchise history. Smith replaces Ron Biga, who departed after six seasons to accept an opportunity outside of baseball.
For Smith, this is the first professional managerial position after spending the last three summers managing the Rockford Rivets of the summer collegiate Northwoods League. He amassed 100 wins in three years with Rockford, which included a trip to the postseason in 2017.
Smith is no stranger to the Frontier League or the ThunderBolts. The Northern Illinois graduate and Chicago Ridge native spent his two-year playing career in the league with the Joliet Slammers. In 2011, he posted a 1.24 ERA with 31 strikeouts and four walks as he helped the Slammers bring home the Frontier League championship in their first year of existence.
After retiring as a player following the 2012 season, Smith began his professional coaching career in Crestwood, spending three years as the pitching coach for the ThunderBolts. He oversaw two pitching all-stars, two no-hitters and nine pitchers who were signed by Major League affiliates.
“First, I want to thank the Windy City owner, Al Oremus, and front office for all of their support throughout this process. When I was hired back in 2013, I had always envisioned myself being in the drivers seat of a Frontier League organization. I was able to see how Ron (Biga) handled certain game situations and how Pete (former Hitting Coach Pete Pirman) and Tom (former Hitting Coach Tom Carcione) would work with the hitters to mold myself into an all around baseball guy. Secondly, I need to thank Chad Bauer and Dick Radatz for giving me the opportunity to get my feet wet as the first manager in Rockford Rivets history. They allowed me to take full control of all things baseball. I was able to work with a budget, full roster control and other particulars needed to help a start up Northwoods League organization. An experience I’m glad I had and will always hold close to my heart” said Smith.
Smith replaces Biga, who signed him as a player in Joliet and first hired him as a coach with Windy City. Biga won a franchise-record 260 games over his six years as ThunderBolts skipper. That number is more than 100 wins ahead of second place on the list. He also sent 17 players to affiliated ball, 19 to the Frontier League All-Star Game and oversaw three postseason all-stars.
“We are excited to have Brian lead the ThunderBolts in 2019. His experience as a manager in the Northwoods League and success as a player and coach in the Frontier League will translate well to developing ballplayers and finding the right guys to build a championship caliber team in Crestwood” said ThunderBolts General Manager Mike Lucas. “The ThunderBolts organization would like to thank Ron Biga for the last six seasons in Crestwood and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
The ThunderBolts will open their 20th anniversary season with Brian Smith at the helm on May 9th in Joliet, where they take on the defending league champion Slammers. Smith will manage his first home game on Tuesday, May 14, when the Bolts host the Evansville Otters.