The Illiana Thunderbolts was formally created in 2004. It was created to provide the opportunity for parents to find a place to have their players play in a competitive environment with a strong emphasis on fundamental instruction.
The coaches that began this program were looking for more that what their local in house/rec ball little league programs could provide. They saw a big discrepancy between their in house/rec ball teams and the more competitive focused travel programs. Originally the program was called “G.R.E.A.T.” This was due to the fact that we received free T-Shirts from the local community police department. Then we were called the Vipers for a year. Finally after more and more parents got on board it was decided to formalize the organization and thus the the Illiana Thunderbolts were formed.
The first part of the name ILLIANA refers to players to the geographic area on both sides of the Illinois & Indiana border. The THUNDERBOLTS as the story goes came about as it was raining and storming on the day that we needed to tell a tournament director what our name was.
Since most of our players in the beginning days were playing on their local in-house/rec ball teams we started as a part-time travel team. Playing rec ball games during the week and on Saturdays and travel ball baseball on Sundays. Today we are trying to move away from part time travel players as we have learned that that model simply does NOT work. Its not easy convincing parents of this widely accepted fact but after many years of compromise we have decided that changes need to be made.
It has always been the position of our program to allow for “part-time” players. Many of our parents did not have any travel ball experience and only new the in-house teams. This plus the fact that many of our original coaches and founders of our programs served on local Little League and other In-House/Rec Ball program boards and really had no point of reference outside their limited experiences. The local in-house/rec ball programs offer a great opportunity for all players regardless of ability the opportunity to play on an organized baseball team. These teams play in shortened seasons (17-22 games) and most receive a trophy or medal of some sort. After the shortened season the leagues select tournament team(s) which they call “ALL STARS” typically made up of the sons of the board members, managers and their friends. Some players who do not have these “connections” make the teams, unfortunately they are few and far between. After many years of witnessing this and speaking with dozens of other similar programs in many geographic areas, the decision to be exclusively full team was an easy ones.
Our mission statement is posted elsewhere on the site. However it is simple to understand that the Thunderbolts were created to provide an atmosphere for both players and parents to focus on fundamental instructional baseball for serious minded people. Most people refer to this as Travel-Baseball. A player must try-out and be selected. Not everyone that wants to play can play. Players come from anywhere , not just their local town. If a problem arises it is dealt with immediately and resolved.
When the focus is baseball that is easy to accomplish.
Now comes the question, Should my player play In-House or Travel Baseball?
While this question is often asked the answer is not as simple as one might think. The Thunderbolts position however is clear.
IF your player is an athlete, IF your player has athletic ability, IF your player loves baseball , IF you(parents) love baseball, then Travel Baseball is the right choice.
On the other hand, IF your player is an average athlete, IF your player is still developing, IF you and your player desire to focus on many sports (soccer, basketball, swimming, etc) then In-House Baseball is your pick.
The differences between In-House & Travel Baseball is vast. Unfortunately it is difficult if not impossible to truly understand it unless you experience it.
Most people are not prepared to make that jump, accept that challenge. Staying with In-House is the easy – familiar choice, the comfortable choice.
Sad but true.
In-House/Rec Ball has tried to combat this obvious discrepancy and so they have created their own travel teams. Don’t be fooled by this. These are not travel teams. These are In-House/Rec Ball teams with the same players (different jerseys and hats) & same coaches trying to play two completely different style of games. It doesn’t work. Just because your travel team “travels” to another field to play a few games doesn’t make it a travel team.
Travel Teams are very happy and confident in their position. They typically do not want to play games against part time travel team or in-house travel teams. No point to it.
In-House/Rec Ball teams are not happy and continue to want to be like a travel team. They schedule games, enter a few travel tournaments only to be frustrated at every juncture. Its a different game. Ask any in-house/travel coach. They will justify their position but the bottom line they do not play the same level of baseball as travel teams.
So, its up to you. Remember every year you wait to do what needs to be done for your son is a year you will NEVER GET BACK…