With temperatures finally rising, it won’t be long until Cal Ripken College Summer League Baseball returns to Blair High School. The Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts will start their season on June 4 and play 18 home games in June and July.
“It’s top competition, and for hitters it’s a new experience to use wood bats,” says third-year coach Brock Hunter. “For the best of them, adapting at the plate can catch the eye of a pro scout.”
For fans, the T-bolts provide a family setting with up-close action and plenty of kid-friendly activities between innings. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Tbolts.org or at the gate: $6 for adults, $2 for kids.
Many of the kids in the crowd also participate in Thunderbolts baseball camps. Beginning on June 20, the T-bolts will host five weeks of camps and several two-day specialty camps, aimed at kids 7-14 who have some prior baseball experience. Registration is open at Tbolts.org.
Meanwhile, Hunter is keeping tabs on his future roster of 35-40 players as they play on their collegiate teams this spring, and he’s pleased with what he’s seeing and hearing.
“Coleman Calabrese [an infielder] has been tearing it up at James Madison, and Keegan Soltis [third base] is near the top in almost every hitting category at Millersville,” Hunter says.
Those newcomers will join a solid base of returning players who were among the team’s stars in 2022. Two returnees who will be key to the team’s success are pitchers Evan Rishell, also from Millersville, and Chandler Moeller from Lander University.
“We’re putting more emphasis on recruiting pitchers this year, and we will have two or three more arms on the roster,” Hunter says, due to a difficult finish last season when injuries and personal obligations significantly affected the staff’s depth.
At the plate, the team will look quite different than a year ago, when it had two of the top home run hitters in the league.
“I think we’ll have less power than season, and the strategy will be different. We’re looking to cut down on strikeouts, get the ball in play, and use our team speed,” Hunter says.
But the team will still have power, coming from sources such as Cornell catcher Nathan Waugh, who’s returning after a strong season last year, and newcomer Justin Costanzo, an outfielder at Widener University, who was the Middle Atlantic Conference’s player of the year in 2022.
The power-speed combination could propel the Thunderbolts back to the upper half of the Ripken League this year. The quality of the league is indicated by 16 alums of the league on Major League Baseball rosters on opening day and four on teams in the recent World Baseball Classic.
“We’re going to compete every day,” Hunter says. “We’re going to be fun to watch.”
Kevin Adler is a Thunderbolts board member. Above, Matt Mervis, now in the Chicago Cubs minor league system, is a former Thunderbolts player moving up the professional ladder. (Photo by David Stinson)