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Feb, 2020

Brian Smith - WAA Program Manager, Ducks Professional Trainer & WC Thunderbolts Field Manager!

“What I did this summer”

If you don't know me, I am the tall guy on the left in the photo above and my name is Brian Smith.  I started working as the Director of the Ducks Academy in 2014.  My main responsibilities were to train and instruct our Wheatland Ducks Travel Baseball players and help to educate our players and coaches, sharing the knowledge and skills I have acquired over my numerous years of playing and coaching baseball.  I added the responsibilities of the WAA Program Manager when I joined the WAA office staff four years ago.  If you call the WAA office in the summertime, you probably will need to leave a message.  The past few summers, I have taken a limited leave of absence to coach in various leagues.  Prior to 2019, I was the coach of the Rockford Rivets, a Northwoods League summer league for college players and a training ground for coaches, umpires and  staff.  More than 200 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC), Brandon Crawford (SFG) and  Chris Sale (BOS). As well as MLB All-Stars Jordan Zimmermann (DET) and Curtis Granderson (MIA).

I spent this past summer, I moved to the position of Field Manager of the Windy City ThunderBolts.  The ThunderBolts play in the Frontier League, an Independent Professional League with teams located in Indiana (Evansville), Illinois (Crestwood, Joliet, Marion, Sauget and Schaumburg), Kentucky (Florence), Missouri (O’Fallon), Ohio (Avon), and Pennsylvania (Washington).  Are you asking yourself “What is independent professional baseball?”  Independent Professional Baseball is a group of 4 leagues (American Association, Atlantic, Can-Am and Frontier) with rosters full of players who are still aspiring to play in the big leagues.  Click here to learn more about the Independent Professional Baseball Federation. 

My role as Field Manager is to construct the roster, within the league regulations and salary cap, manage 24 player personalities (on and off the field), hire a coaching staff and work with major league baseball scouts to sign players off our current roster.  That doesn’t include my in-season day to day duties that include line up structure, pitching staff management, injuries, signing and releasing players. 

My major objective each day is to reach out to MLB scouts to schedule dates for them to come out and see some of our prospects play.  This past season we had three players purchased by Major League Baseball (1 by the San Francisco Giants and 2 by the Milwaukee Brewers).  Once I have done that, I review notes from our training staff to see if anyone had been hurt the night before.  After reviewing the notes from our trainers, I dig deep into our opponents starting pitcher and construct our line up based on who we feel will have the most success that day.  I like to manage with my eyes and with hard data.  I try to not let one take complete control of any game. 

The first season as a professional manager had its ups and downs.  I was taking over a team full of experience that hadn’t seen much success so I had the difficult decision to make a lot of personnel changes to the roster.   It is never easy to release ball players.  These guys have spent a lot of time and effort to get themselves prepared for another season but when new management comes in, we always want the roster constructed around the way we like to play and sometimes the players on the roster from years past don’t cut it.  I would like to call year one a “transition” year. Now that the roster has been flipped, I am looking forward to a successful 2020 season.

I am now back in the WAA office Monday through Friday and will start off season training with the Ducks athletes later this fall.  I will be working with our trainers to offer off season baseball camps and clinics for athletes that want to work on the baseball skills this winter.  Check out our current programs for young baseball players (ages 8-18) HERE  or our Speed and Agility programs HERE

For 2020 Windy City Thunderbolts ticket information, please visit  I would love to see you there!  

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